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Feb 14, 2007 4:12 am


FULBRIGHT INDIA HAD ENOUGH



Are you an American Scholar? Please do not come to India . This was the stunning front page headline of the Indian Sunday Express:

The Sunday Express accessed latest official records on the Indo-US Fulbright program, one of the most prestigious bilateral scholar-exchange programs, under which about 100 scholars from India go to the US and an equal number of Americans come here to pursue research with relevant institutions. Fulbright scholars — including graduates from premier universities, like Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley and Chicago — have gone on to win 34 Nobels and more than 60 Pulitzer Prizes.

Records show that for US scholars, the last two years — since the UPA came to power — have been the worst in the 57-year history of the program. Not only has the Government kept the highest number of scholars waiting for anywhere between anywhere between six months to 21 months — effectively derailing their entire schedule — it has also, in several cases, rejected research proposals without giving any reason.

Sample the subjects rejected by the babus of this “secular” Government: Democratization in Kerala and the role of associations; perceptions of Muslim women; Left politics in Mumbai; how migration affects Hindus and Muslims in Hyderabad and Dubai. Many scholars refused to re-apply while some changed their subjects to get a visa (see chart).

As promised it was followed up today with Help us: Fulbright scholars to Rice.

I was stunned not by the description of the high handed manner the Indian bureaucracy treats Fulbrighters. That is an old story though I suggest you read it to believe it. Not was I surprise by the facts. I have written already about the amazing anti-Americanism exhibited by the Indian elite, an anti-Americanism which is matched only by their disdain for democracy, their nostalgia for the USSR and their hope that Russia emerge strong enough to replace it in Indian Foreign policy thereby curtailing the new US-Indian strategic alliance. Two very different conferences I attended last week were excellent examples. The first Indology Conference was designed to bring about a Hindu Renaissance by putting forward the argument that during the Vedic times, learning was used to improve life not to recommend withdrawing from it. Unfortunately, instead of putting into practice his professed Pantheism, Shri Shraddhalu Ranade, a Rasputin look alike"guru" chose to find an excuse to present the Americanization as the to avoid after another speaker challenged his presentation of Westernization as the path to avoid. He was surprised when I expressed my disapproval. He thought Anti-Americanism was safe.

The second example was at REVIVING THE SILK ROUTE: NEW INITIATIVES AND ENGAGEMENTS FOR THE 21st CENTURY organized by the Indian Foreign Affairs Council. In that conference Indian Political scientists tried to convince their unhappy Central Asian guests to put their trust in a new Russian/Indian condominium and praised the Chinese for not interfering in other countries affairs with fortuitous focus on human rights!

I was stunned because the fact that USEFI (as the Fulbright association is known here) has finally gone public and opened its files to an Indian national daily. Last time I spoke with a top American diplomat in India, he assured me that the Indian elite is supportive of the improved American-Indian relations and the USEFI officials explained that the weakness of the Indian bureaucracy is to blame since Australians have similar problems. Of course, they fail to realize that Australia is no dearer to the leftist/Islamist alliance which constitutes much of the Indian intellectual and bureaucratic elite.

In any case, better late than never. I want to congratulate USEFI India for its courage. In the past American diplomats not only did not complain about Indian government mistreatment of Americans but they did not even publicize the enormous help the US provided India. As the Times of India notes. the level of aid received little notice. Indeed, the story is finally only told in the context of ending the massive program not that India has finally learned to fish:

The United States has decided to end all bilateral financial aid to 'rising' India, following the country's economic surge in recent years.

The Bush administration last week whittled down its already paltry $ 124.9 million aid in 2006 to a measly $ 81 million for the coming fiscal, a drop of 35 per cent, citing New Delhi's growing economic performance and changing profile.

Even that downsized funding"will be used for the eventual orderly close out of US Agency of International Development's programme in India," a state department official told ToI in a matter-of-factly disclosure that brings to an end one of the largest aid efforts undertaken by Washington, rivaling the famed Marshall Plan, while not drawing as much attention.

By US estimates, India has received the equivalent of $14 billion in American economic assistance ($57 billion in today's dollars) from the time Washington opened the aid flow in 1951. The US Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II involved $ 13 billion over a four year) period.

US bilateral financial assistance to India has been thinning steadily after peaking in 1960 when Washington gave $ 1.6. billion, 92 per cent of it as food aid, to a country that was widely considered a basket case.

Washington poured in billions more throughout the 1960s to help kick-start India's Green Revolution and bump up food grain production from 70 million tons those days to more than 200 million tons today.

US aid helped establish eight agricultural universities across India, and more famously, two IITs -- in Kanpur and Kharagpur - and 14 regional engineering colleges.

More recent US assistance has been directed towards such efforts as establishing a National Depository and paperless trading in stock exchanges and helping Ahmedabad become the first city in India to receive an investment grade rating and float a municipal bond.

But on Monday, a top US official said India's days of major league aid are over, although there will still be a trickle, mainly to help in health issues such as Aids. Even here, much more assistance is coming through private channels such as the Gates Foundation.

With an economy that is growing at over 8 per cent, India had become a donor country, US AID Administrator Randall Tobias said, citing New Delhi's $ 50 million aid to Afghanistan.

"India is in a position where they are taking on more of the burden for the problems facing India," Tobias observed at a briefing for the foreign media.




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