(November 18-20, 2012)
Ambassador Nirupama Rao travelled to Kentucky during November 18-20, 2012 on a visit to promote exchanges between India and this important state at the intersection of the U.S. mid-west and south, well-known for its industries, natural resources, and educational centers. Ambassador Rao’s engagements were mainly in Lexington, which enjoys a prime location in the "Golden Triangle" formed with Louisville and Cincinnati, and is home to a large Indian American community.
During the visit, Ambassador Rao met with the Governor of Kentucky, Mr. Steve Beshear at the State capital, Frankfort. Ambassador Rao addressed faculty and students at the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky at Lexington and visited the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Kentucky’s second largest community college. The President of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Eli Capilouto hosted a dinner in Ambassador Rao’s honor, where the Mayor of Lexington, Mr. Jim Gray was also present. Ambassador Rao also visited the Kentucky Educational TV, one of the pioneers of distance education in the United States. The Indian American community hosted a felicitation ceremony for the Ambassador in Lexington.
During the meeting with Governor Beshear, Ambassador Rao expressed her deep appreciation for his efforts in building closer economic relations between Kentucky and India, which have resulted in investments by a number of Indian owned companies in Kentucky generating local employment. Governor Beshear fondly recalled his three visits to India since taking office in 2007, most recently in September 2012, and described them as “extraordinary experiences both economically and culturally”. The Governor highlighted two recent landmark business deals by Indian companies in Kentucky – one, a $7 billion 25-year contract between India’s Abhijeet Group and Kentucky’s FJS Energy LLC for import of coal – an important natural resource of Kentucky; and the other, a $180 million investment by an Indian packaging company, Flex Films in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Ambassador Rao invited investments from Kentucky in India’s infrastructure and educational sector, and emphasized the mutually beneficial nature of economic engagement between India and the United States.
At the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky at Lexington, Ambassador Rao was welcomed by its Dean, Mr. David Blackwell who hosted a round-table for Ambassador with the Kalam Endowment research grant recipients, and some select faculty members from the University’s Martin School of Public Policy and the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. The Kalam Grant was instituted by the APJ Kalam India Studies Research Program named after the 11th President of India, who visited the Gatton College on a two-week teaching assignment in 2010. The program supports research in India's role in international commerce and facilitates intellectual interaction between scholars in India and in the Gatton College. During the interaction, the grant recipients briefed Ambassador Rao on their researches.
In an address later to the faculty and students of the Gatton College, Ambassador Rao spoke about the latest developments in India and in the India-U.S. strategic partnership. In an interactive session that followed the address, students asked questions about India’s foreign policy, India’s role in the contemporary world, tasks and challenges ahead for the India’s diplomacy and its Foreign Service, the role of youth, and the impact of social media. While introducing Ambassador Rao, Dean Blackwell noted that the Foreign Policy magazine had listed Ambassador Rao among the top 100 most influential women leaders on Twitter.
During the visit to the Bluegrass Community College in Lexington, Ambassador Rao interacted with the senior faculty and management team of the institution and enquired about the various aspects of its functioning. Noting India’s growing need for affordable higher education and vocational skills development, Ambassador Rao highlighted India’s interest in learning from the U.S. experience in setting up community colleges. She invited the Bluegrass Community College, which provides education to 12,000 students across six centres, to explore collaborative avenues with Indian educational institutions. Ambassador Rao also toured the Kentucky Educational TV station and discussed possible collaboration with Indian TV channels dedicated to distance education.
[Photographs of Ambassador Rao’s various engagements may be seen at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.470241449694550.119373.164730746912290&type=1]