India’s soft power in world’s hardball capital

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count: Albert Einstein

By Pradeep S Mehta & Purushendra Singh

July 4 marks the 247th Independence Day of America and also complements 230 years of Indians in America. The earliest record of Indians in America dates back to the 1790s when the British sailors who had bought men from Tamil Nadu as their servants and helpers.

This is an effort to reiterate the message by the Indian duos Sardar Jagjit Singh and Mubarak Ali, made during a speech in 1945 contextualizing with developments over the past 75 years. The speech of the duo in front of the US Congress was about voicing the contribution of Indian immigrants in academia, science, medicine, agriculture, infrastructure, and participation in wars on American soil.

Today, from the same land of Tamil Nadu hails Vice-President Kamala Harris, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and its subsidiary Google, Vivek Sankaran, CEO of Albertsons, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi co., and many more people who safeguard and add value to the American economy but also adds to the nation’s soft power in the Indian Subcontinent.

Indian immigrants are the most entrepreneurial of any group, including natives. Indian Americans are the second-largest immigrant group in the United States. The number of Indian-origin residents in the entire United States is over four million, which is about 1 percent of the U.S. population. If the current trend follows, then Indian Americans would comprise 2 percent of the total population of the U.S. by 2030.

One of the Richest Ethnic Communities

Earlier in the 19th century, the first wave of about three thousand Indian immigrants working mainly in the agriculture, lumber, and railroad industries came from Punjab and started settling in communities along the Pacific West Coast. It was the relaxation of its quota immigration policy in 1965, the liberalization policies, and the Y2K movement of the 1990s that led to the IT boom and influx of technical experts into the state of California.

Indian origin immigrants make up about 1 percent of the total population of the U.S., about 6 percent of the Silicon Valley’s workforce, around 8 percent of the founders of high tech companies, and one-third of the technology start-ups in the Silicon Valley.

The Indian Diaspora is among the richest ethnic communities in America. The median annual income of all Indian descendants is approximately $89,000, which is far higher than the median annual income of the U.S. national at $50,000. Indian Americans make valuable contributions to economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship as also mentioned by Biden, the Indian-American community’s work has powered the economic growth of America and helped create cultural dynamism.

Indian Americans have played a significant role in transforming the U.S. socio-economy. Ramani Ayer, former CEO and chairman of The Hartford; Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo.; Parag Aggrawal, CEO of Twitter; Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of Micron Technology; Arvind Krishna, Chairman and CEO of IBM; and Naureen Hassan, Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are some of the Indian-American personalities who have worked towards the “American Dream” of economic stability, sustainability, and prosperity.

With the turn of the century, Indian-Americans switched from job seekers to job providers, and have emerged as the most prosperous group. It is evident that Indian Americans have been injecting more money into local businesses and municipal budgets as consumers, workers, and taxpayers. In this century, the Indian-Americans have created investment opportunities for a robust economy. There have been Indian-Americans among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people,

Breaking of the Glass Ceiling

There are other prominent names of those who have broken the glass ceiling, and risen through the ranks by hard work, skill sets, and stood as a robust pillar of the ‘American Dream’. These include Rakesh Gangwal, former CEO of US Airways group (1998-2001); Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe; Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft; Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc. and it’s subsidiary Google; Francisco D’Souza, former CEO of Cognizant.

If combined, the companies which are headed by an Indian-American have earnings of over $550 billion alone in 2020 which is greater than the GDP of about 40 countries put together. There are nearly 200,000 Indian students in the U.S. who contribute 7.7 billion annually to the U.S. economy and many of whom promise to be the future CEOs and provide employment and revenue for the U.S. and are likely to become green card holders.

India’s Soft Power

The rich civilizational and cultural ethos of the Indian Americans or the ‘Desi Americans’ have become a part of the American fabric, with both countries recognizing Indian Diaspora as mutually benefitting. The Desi Americans have helped in making American corporations set up a base in India and currently, there are over 300 American companies that have bases in India. With mutual benefits, big tech giants such as Wipro, an Indian IT service corporation that provides facilities across 23 U.S. states; Tata group, HCL technologies, Mahindra, and other IT field companies have played a huge role in providing services to the US and creating wealth for the American investors.

The Indian Americans are the most educated among the U.S. citizens as three out of every four have a college degree. Also, among the share of people living in poverty or under the poverty level – the national average is 12 percent and Indian Americans have only 5 percent as people living under the poverty line. Indian Americans have the highest household income and per capita income. They form the richest and most successful ethnic group in the USA.

There are data that show that Indian Americans play a vital role in subsidizing private health insurance and offsetting the deficit incurred by U.S.-born individuals. Health is another sector where Indian Americans have played the leading role, with every 7th patient being treated by an Indian-origin doctor.

This article is just the reiteration with economic add-ons of 75 years to the first voice made by the Indian origin duos – Sardar Jagjit Singh and Mubarak Ali in 1945 about the contribution of Indian immigrants in academia, science, medicine, agriculture, infrastructure, and participation in the war on the American soil.

With sheer size, cultural skills, and intellectual hard work, Desi Americans significantly strengthens U.S. soft power. Joseph Nye mentioned in his book, “Bound to Lead: The challenging nature of American power” that through a nation’s soft power, which includes cultural influence, political values, and economic growth, rises the nation’s values.

(The authors work for the CUTS International Washington D.C. Center.)


Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

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