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Inaugural US-India Friendship Summit will highlight the many ties between the world's two largest democracies

Representatives from the world’s two largest democracies will meet at Creighton University next month in the first-ever United States-India Friendship Summit, a joint endeavor of Creighton’s Asian World Center and the India Association of Nebraska.

The all-day summit, slated to begin at 8 a.m., Oct. 7, is aimed at strengthening the bonds between India and the U.S., exploring greater economic and cultural exchange, and generally promoting better understanding between the two nations’ people.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to come together as friends and to celebrate all the things India and the U.S. hold in common,” said Maorong Jiang, PhD, associate professor of political science and international relations and director of the Asian World Center. “For these two democracies to come together and to learn from one another is an inspiration to Asia and to the world. Both the U.S. and India have shown that their system of government, of holding government accountable and voting, is a step toward the betterment of humanity.”

With high-profile speakers from both nations, the summit will hold sessions on geopolitics, economics and business possibilities, shared values and cultural diversity.

The presenter lineup is headlined by statesman and author Shashi Tharoor, a former United Nations under-secretary general and India’s former minister of state for human resource development and minister of state for external affairs. He is presently a member of parliament for the Indian National Congress and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs.

“Shashi Tharoor is India’s most recognized speaker on the world stage right now and it’s a huge honor for us to host him,” said Sanjay P. Singh, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology in Creighton’s School of Medicine, a former president of the India Association of Nebraska and convener of the summit. “All of the speakers are the kind of people we want to listen to when it comes to building friendship and understanding in the world today.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska’s First Congressional District and former Nebraska governor and senator Mike Johanns will also speak to American and Indian political interests, joined by Tarun Vijay, a leading Indian intellectual and ideological mentor of the ruling political party in India.

On the business and economic development side, distinguished speakers include Amit Chandra, managing director of Bain Capital Mumbai, Jim Clifton, chairman and chief executive officer of Gallup, Raj Kalathur, senior vice president and chief financial officer of John Deere, and Mary D. Kane, president and CEO of Sister Cities International.

Internationally renowned Indian writer Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and former University of Nebraska football coach and congressman Tom Osborne are also on the speakers bill.

Bringing Indian and American leaders together under the Creighton banner made perfect sense, given the burgeoning relationship between India and the University and the Creighton Global Initiative.

“To do this on the Creighton campus is to showcase the values of human unity, understanding and compassion that mark what a Creighton education is all about,” said Jiang, thanking both Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, and René Padilla, PhD, vice provost for Global Engagement. “The future will be about forging friendships and listening to one another to build stronger bonds and to fight injustice around the world. We are so grateful to be able to uplift these issues on the Creighton stage.”

As both nations face new challenges at home and abroad, Jiang and Singh said the underpinning democratic spirit in India and the U.S. will continue to be a beacon the world over.

And given the vibrant, diverse cultures comprising Indian and U.S. society, both nations demonstrate a unifying spirit that ennobles the practice of democracy, Singh said. “In the world today, as there always is, there is great hope but also great despair,” Singh said.

“People look up to democracies like those in the U.S. and India for hope. We share important values of freely elected government and human rights, values the world still needs. Coming together as two nations with diverse populations, we have shown that that diversity and democracy have made both India and the U.S. places where people prosper and live at peace. I hope that is the main message to come out of the summit.”

Both Jiang and Singh hope the summit can become a regular tradition and Jiang said the hope from the perspective of the Asian World Center is that future summits can bring other Asian nations together with friends in the U.S. and at Creighton.

“There is so much in the world to commend getting together and talking,” Jiang said. “Our problems stem from not enough meeting and coming together as friends, or at least with the intention of listening deeply and trying to understand. At the Asian World Center, I like to think our main goal is to promote that friendship. At Creighton, with its Jesuit values and educational model, we are the perfect place to initiate those conversations and relationships.”

For a full listing of summit sessions and presenters, and to register, click here.

All presentation sections are free and open to the public. Seating is limited, please register online at this link.

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