Extremist Threat Explored Think Tank at NY Indian Consulate

New York, NY. Jeff M. Smith, a Kraemer Strategy Fellow at Washington’s American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), recently addressed a packed dining room of New York’s Indian Consulate off Fifth Avenue this week, speaking on Indo-American, -Pakistani and -Sino relations, but focusing most on the growing threat of extremism in South Asia.   The mostly Indian-American audience was particularly receptive. 

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Jeff Smith, a Kraemer Strategy Fellow at Washington’s American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC),
focused on the threat of extremism. Photo courtesy of Jingo Media, copyright Nanette Melville.

Carefully distinguishing between faith and extremism, Jeff spoke on the rise extremist Islam in Pakistan, neighboring India, and the danger this posed to not only India, but the world.   Jeff also spoke to some of the challenges facing India domestically, such as rising inflation and several high-profile corruption scandals, before examining the state of the U.S.-India relationship, which he believes is on an improved footing after President Obama’s visit there last November.

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A cross-section of leaders heard from the American Foreign Policy Council at New York’s
Indian Consulate. Photo courtesy of Jingo Media, copyright Nanette Melville.

Although the AFPC think tank is conservative in nature, I thought Jeff Smith presented a fairly balanced view of Indian relations with its neighbor and the world.   He says he is a registered Independent.   My own thoughts are that so many Pakistani friends of mine are completely moderate, but the rise of extremism in Pakistan – such as the recent assassination of Salman Taseer, a liberal politician close to President Asif Ali Zardari in Punjab – concerns me greatly.

As Jeff stated from the podium, “Believing elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services are not actively aiding extremists and undermining the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan requires a willing suspension of disbelief.”   It is an extremely sensitive topic.

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Hon. Prabhu Dayal, Consul General of India in New York, served as M.C.

for the event.   Photo courtesy of Jingo Media, copyright Nanette Melville.

Jeff spoke about the dangers posed by extremism of any ilk and noted the little-followed problem in India with Maoists.   He cited that one recent attack had killed 75 police officers – a death toll higher than commonly found even in the battles of Afghanistan.   He stated that 1,100 Indians had died from this home-grown extremism last year, compared to about 500 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

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Vijay Dandapani, president & C.E.O. of Apple Core Hotels, hosted this foreign

policy dinner. Photo courtesy of Jingo Media, copyright Nanette Melville.

The evening was the inspiration of its host, Vijay Dandapani, president & C.E.O. of Apple Core Hotels.   Vijay told me he thought it was important for companies to participate in global dialogue and he was pleased to have been able to do is part in bringing the conversation to New York.

I followed up with Vijay after the event and he told me in more detail:

My idea in sponsoring the evening was premised on what Jefferson said about an informed citizenry being the bulwark of democracies.   Security issues affect not just companies but all citizens as there are direct economic consequences that flow from them.   Informing regular folks about the consequences of foreign policy decisions on their lives could lead to better outcomes within and outside the U.S.

Also, as I said in my introductory remarks, an extremist takeover of parts of the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal due to the Jihadi threat to Pakistan’s own existence is entirely within the realms of possibility and any reluctance to acknowledge that requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

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Herman Pirchner, Jr., President of the American Foreign Policy Council, spoke
to the Indian press. President Photo courtesy of Jingo Media, copyright Nanette Melville.

Although I have attended events at consulates around the world, I have seldom noted one as handsome as the Indian Consulate in New York.   Built in 1903 for Ms. Carrie Astor as a private residence, it was bought by the Government of India shortly after Indian Independence in 1950.   With its Beaux Arts street facade and circular marble atrium, the dignified venue presents a grand stage for foreign policy discussions.

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Those attended participated in a lively Q & A following the lecture.
Photo courtesy of Jingo Media, copyright Nanette Melville.

As the evening reminded us all, tensions along the border run extremely high.   This partisan speech clearly pleased most of the Indians in the room who have long complained of the United States’ perceived favoritism of Pakistan.   Aroon Shivdasani, executive director of the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), told me:

The U.S. Government pours billions of dollars and arms into Pakistan in the naive assumption that they will use it to curb the Taliban and help U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.   Instead, Pakistan has no hesitation in using these funds and arms against India and to increase its nuclear arsenal.   It is high time the U.S. realized that Pakistan is not its friend.

Like with my Chinese and Tibetan friends or my Israeli and Palestinian friends, I am caught solidly in the middle of this conflict between my many Indian and Pakistani friends.   I was raised by my WW II-influenced grandparents who wanted me to know the evil that was, in their minds, Germany and Japan.   Only by living in Germany and Japan as a student did I learn that governments can be bad, but people are by definition neutral.   It is my sincere hope that the government of Pakistan will forcefully counter extremism now before it is too late.

See also by Jim Luce:

China |   Extremism |   India |   Pakistan

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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