Indian Americans Pack More Heft in Modi’s Shadow


WASHINGTON — The influential Indian American community packed more heft in 2015 as America wooed “India’s reformer-in-chief” Narendra Modi, as President Barack Obama called his “good friend” amid another love fest with the Indian diaspora.

Beyond power meetings with Obama and other world leaders at the UN, as the Indian prime minister on his second odyssey to America courted big business and tech titans of Silicon Valley, he found several desi faces across the table.

Among them were Ajay Banga, chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council, representing more than 300 of the largest international companies investing in India, Microsoft chief executiveSatya Nadella and Google’s newly-minted chief, Sundar Pichai.

Obama, who has the largest number of Indian Americans in his administration, also added MasterCard CEO Banga to his ever expanding Indian talent pool by naming him as a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

As India and the U.S. together battle the scourge of terrorism, Obama named Rashad Hussain, a Muslim of Indian heritage, as U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counter-Terrorism Communications.

Again, as the White House looked for its first chief data scientist, Obama turned to Dhanurjay ‘DJ’ Patil to help shape policies and practices to help the U.S. remain a leader in technology and innovation.

Other Obama appointees included Swati A. Dandekar as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, Arun Majumdar as one of four U.S. science envoys, and Atul Keshap as ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Keshap was the second person of Indian descent to be posted to the region after Richard Rahul Verma was appointed U.S. ambassador to India, while Nisha Desai Biswal heads the State Department’s South Asia Bureau.

Obama presented the 2014 National Medal of Arts and Humanities to Pulitzer Prize winning Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri.

Modi, along with Nadella, Chanda Kochhar and Vikram Patel, also made it to the Time magazine’s list of the World’s 100 most influential people.

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