CHRISTIE SHELY/THE HOYA Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, spoke in Gaston Hall Tuesday and addressed India’s relationship with the world.
CHRISTIE SHELY/THE HOYA
Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, spoke in Gaston Hall Tuesday and addressed India’s relationship with the world.

Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, expressed her hope that India can play a role as both a world superpower and a builder of the South Asian identity in her address Tuesday.

During the talk in Gaston Hall, sponsored by the Office of the President, Rao spoke to how the shared history and culture of South Asian nations can be the basis for future developmental partnerships, despite the region’s political fragmentation.

“South Asia is one concept, culturally and geographically, though not politically,” she said. “You can’t change the map.”

Rao echoed the rhetoric of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, noting that improved trade and investment networks combined with greater economic cooperation would further the growth of all South Asian nations.

According to Rao, reviving the South Asian identity must draw upon shared linguistic, historical and culture ties. While optimistic about the strength of these cultural linkages, Rao acknowledged regional instability as a key obstacle to integration and development.

“India is placed in a complex neighborhood,” she said. “Our relations with Pakistan are complicated by terrorism.”

Rao also touched on India’s relations with Afghanistan, the newest member of SAARC. Rao identified democratization and development as key goals necessary in order for Afghanistan to achieve stability and avoid returning to extremism.

“We have provided significant development aid to Afghanistan, at great human cost,” she said.

In addition to discussing India’s leading role in furthering regional development, Rao deemed India an international superpower, emphasizing the United States’ and India’s common foundation of democracy as a basis for their strengthened partnership in the 21st century. When she informed the audience that President Obama had personally told her that he looked forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India, she was met with thundering applause.

Rao also advocated for increased relations between Georgetown University and India. She referred to Georgetown as a leader in forging partnerships with institutes of higher education and learning after University President John J. DeGioia mentioned that the first US-India summit on higher education would take place at Gaston Hall in two weeks.

“The right to education has become a fundamental right in India,” Rao said.

Rao acknowledged the difficulty of making higher education more accessible for all levels of society, especially for girls and women — an issue that will be addressed at the upcoming summit.

“There is a saying in Sanskrit — wealth that education offers is the greatest wealth of all,” she said.

Rafi Khetab (SFS ’13), a native of Afghanistan, agreed with Rao’s emphasis on India’s role as a leader and possible model for other South Indian nations.

“India is a better example for establishing democracy for Afghanistan than European countries,” he said. “The countries of South Asia are connected by shared cultural ideas and deep historical ties. Afghans are better able to understand India’s form of democracy.”

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