Charles W. Wessner
National Research Council
Dr. Wessner seconded both Dr. Good’s thanks to the panelists and her comments on the lessons their talks had provided, telling her: “You’re very right that we need to try and get some of the public-policy people to listen a little more fully.” He expressed his gratitude in addition for the contributions of a number of people and organizations to the day’s success: the Confederation of Indian Industry, whose cosponsorship of the conference had made possible both its scale and its quality; the Embassy of India, and particularly Ambassador Sen; and the U.S. Department of State, many of whose offices had been of help. Finally, he singled out Dr. Sujai Shivakumar of the STEP Board’s staff, praising him not only as a colleague but as a partner without whose efforts the event would not have been possible.
The U.S.–Indian Relationship: A Rare Vibrancy
To conclude the symposium, Dr. Wessner offered a summary of the numerous and, indeed, exciting perspectives that it had provided. A fundamental one—that there was enormous interest in the U.S.–Indian relationship—was plain from the attendance of 400 and the participation of four ministers of both cabinet and subcabinet rank. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen this level of vibrancy on both sides,” he said, speaking on behalf of those among the attendees with extensive policy experience. Moreover, the two countries’ relationship on the plane of government had great depth and breadth. Accounts by Secretary Bodman, Dr. Marburger, Minister Sibal, and Deputy Chairman Ahluwalia of shared interests and objectives, as well as of the range of activities already under way, had been extremely encouraging.
Turning to the private sector, Dr. Wessner pointed to the growth and the vitality of the India–U.S. R&D relationship in both directions and again stated his concurrence with Dr. Good, this time with her observation that industry had a capacity to get ahead of policy makers very quickly. Worthy of emphasis was that the day’s discussion had shown India’s potential to be far beyond call centers and other low-cost services. India’s diversity of very high-end, cutting-edge capabilities in different sectors—whether automotive, information technology, or pharmaceutical—was not often reflected in the press. Similarly, the area of cooperation among educational institutions in India and the United States was in need of further exploration, and this was an effort that the National Academies might well undertake.
Impressing on Americans the Need for Change
As a final point, Dr. Wessner signaled that while the two nations had real opportunities to capture, inherent in this quest was a challenge to change. Professor Dahlman and others had been right to emphasize that “things [were] going better” in India; still, according to Dr. Wessner—who apologized for the liberty he was taking with grammar—things needed to go “much more better.”
A related point, and one that Americans had a difficult time understanding, was that it was incumbent upon the United States to change its institutions as well, since those that had succeeded in the post-War period would not necessarily be the ones to carry it through the 21st century. Indeed, the current success of the United States is based on its past investment, and since the 1960s, the country had cut its national investment in R&D roughly in half. “That doesn’t seem to be investing for the future in the way we’d all like to see,” he cautioned, repeating: “We, too, have our challenges, and we hope to address them.”