India, U.S. to set up working group on education and skill training

iNDICA News Bureau-

Emphasizing the need for more people-to-people connections, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony J Blinken announced a working group on education and skill training to bring academic institutions in the two countries together to develop new research programs.

The two foreign ministers were speaking at a discussion on higher education at Howard University in Washington, DC, April 12. Also attending were U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, and India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu.

The discussion. moderated by Dr Anthony Wutoh, provost and chief academic officer of Howard University, took place in the Founder’s Library.

Howard University is a historically diverse university that has several famed Indian-American alumni, including U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, and hosts an annual exchange program with the JSS Academy of Higher Education & Research, Mysore.

Blinken said the cultural and educational ties between the U.S. and India have grown every year and the 200,000 Indians studying in the U.S. alongside the numerous American exchange students in India studying on fellowships are testament to the fact.

The ministers also spoke of policy measures to further cooperation, saying the focus on international collaboration in education prompted by India’s New Education Policy of 2020 was complemented by the focus of the U.S. and the other members of the Quad on collaborative STEM education.

The ministers also faced a variety of questions from students in the audience, beginning with a query about what caused their interest in international relations.

Asked about how the Covid-era healthcare cooperation between India and the U.S. would change in the years to come, Jaishankar spoke extensively about how the cooperation in 2019–2021 over items like vaccine manufacturing, supply-chain logistics, oxygen cylinders and healthcare equipment export had built deeper and more lasting trust between the two countries and how the ability to cooperate with and lean on each other during a crisis had made clear the depth and strength of the partnership.

Asked how to deepen educational and cultural engagement with India, Blinken spoke of the ways in which numerous avenues had opened up for cooperation between the countries, and how India and the U.S., along with Australia and Japan in the Quad, are creating new opportunities for development, cooperation and collaboration.

He also spoke of the value of the educational exchange programs set up thus far, pointing out that most, if not all, of those who had been in these programs had gone on to be involved in the leadership of their countries. He stressed that deepening educational cooperation was a priority as it allows for “building connections between our people and our countries that outlast any particular government and that builds a lasting foundation for our countries to come together”.

The U.S. secretary also spoke of how to deepen the engagement with the ‘Study in India’ program to allow foreign students to study in the country, saying there are “a whole sort of menu” of options in the making, such as short-term exchanges, having students do their degree in India, creating fellowships which would facilitate that, etc. He stated that there were a variety of opportunities coming up in this area in the near future.

The transcript of the discussion can be found here.