CERRITOS, Calif. — An intimate gathering of local Indian American leaders received and welcomed Navtej Sarna, India’s ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C., at a gala reception and dinner at the Sheraton Hotel here Feb. 13.
Sarna, who took over as ambassador of India on Nov. 5, 2016, spent the evening chatting about his transition into office while also admiring what the Indian diaspora has achieved during the past 30 to 40 years here in the United States.
He began his roughly 15-minute speech with an observation of the current state of politics and diplomacy in Washington, D.C. Sarna began his tenure as ambassador at roughly the same time President Donald J. Trump was elected to the White House.
“Washington, you can imagine in the last 16 months that I have been there, has been extremely busy. It’s a new administration, a very different kind of administration … even amongst the Republicans,” Sarna explained to the audience of about 100.
Yet the ambassador quickly shifted to praise the current state of U.S.-India relations.
“I’m glad to say we have managed to ensure that a U.S.-India relationship continues on the upswing,” Sarna said. “We had a very successful year. Prime Minister Modi and President Trump have met twice. They have had several telephone conversations and a very clear path for a relationship, both in strategic terms, strategic cooperation in the international arena … or [an] engagement, has been laid out.
“This relationship has never been in a better place than it is today,” Sarna continued about U.S.-India relations.
The ambassador added the Indian diaspora in the United States has fully matured and come of age.
“I’m sure all of you have gone through individual struggles to achieve what you have. You’ve gone through common community struggles to reach where you have. But it’s very touching to see… how many [Indian American] events are being done together,” Sarna said. “I think that’s a big achievement. You’re are giving back to society.”
Sarna added the achievements of Indian Americans here in the United States have not gone unnoticed half a world away in India.
“The India of today is very much aware of what you are doing. Sometimes I’m asked, ‘are you not worried about brain drain, people going away.’ I say perhaps there was a time in India when we were worried about brain drain, because when people left they seemed to leave forever,” Sarna said. “But I think given the globalized world today, given the growth of Indian opportunities, given the connective possibilities today, I think the world is going around full circle.
“If people are doing well here, very often the benefits are of what you’re doing are going back to India,” Sarna continued. “We are truly a global village. I think the concept of brain drain has changed to brain gain.”
He also commended the Indian diaspora for maintaining their Indian culture despite being so far away from home.
Sarna spent some time detailing how much India, as a country, has itself evolved in recent times.
“Today we are the fastest growing economy in the world,” Sarna said, adding India’s Gross Domestic Product growth is currently at 7.74 percent. “We are set to be a $5 trillion economy in 2025. We are going to be the third largest consumer market in 2025.”
Roughly 800 million people in India are age 35 or younger, Sarna added.
“It’s a society with energy, it’s a society with aspirations, it’s a society which is increasingly becoming a powerhouse,” Sarna told the audience.
Sarna has been a member of the Indian Foreign Service since 1980. He spent many years in Europe and the Middle East, working at the Indian Embassy in Moscow, Warsaw and Tehran. Sarna was also the Ambassador of India to the state of Israel (2008-2012), Counselor for the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva (1994-1997), and High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom (2016).
The reception dinner and gala was coordinated by the Global Organizations of People of Indian Origin, the National Federation of Indian American Associations, and 18 other local organizations.