A conversation with Consul General Amit Kumar, Consulate General of India, Chicago.
Consul General Mr. Amit Kumar visited Michigan August 19-20, 2021 to meet and interact with several business, community, and cultural ambassadors. In an exclusive meeting with Miindia.com, Mr. Kumar outlined the four-point agenda for further enrichment and engagement of the India-US relations covering health cooperation, energy & climate change, knowledge-based partnerships – higher educations, S&T, innovation & Start-ups, digital economy and commerce. Discussing several community challenges and throwing insight into a variety of incentives and potential opportunities for early start-ups, the conversation touched numerous subject areas from consular services, technology to renewable energy and communications.
Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview with the Consul General. Interviewed by Anu Gopalakrishnan for miindia.com.
How do you foresee the economic landscape in the Midwest region?
CG: As you see, the overall landscape of the India-US relations is wide-ranging, in a sense covering all aspects of human endeavor. We are in a knowledge-based economy seeing a huge cultural shift and hence we are trying to re-position ourselves – both technology and infrastructure wise. This requires engagement and collaboration with the relevant stakeholders and institutions. Michigan is a very important partner state for us in the US Midwest.
Your support during the pandemic was enormous. How did you pull it off?
CG: Our priority in healthcare cooperation at this stage is in relation to the COVID pandemic. ICMR and CDC, medical institutions and science and technology on both sides worked closely on transmission, diagnostics and the therapeutic aspects of the disease. Health will continue to be an important part of our overall cooperation. Of course, there is a slow and gradual progress of understanding Ayurveda and Natural Medicine to complement the Western medicine system. Our response as a Consulate to COVID situation was very quick as we saw a lot of residents wanting to travel to India to attend to their ailing parents or relatives and due to bereavement in the immediate family. For example, we had individuals traveling from Michigan overnight to get visas/passport renewed for emergency cases. It was exhausting but we did all that we could do to be present for them at these difficult times of need.
Observing the tangible touch points the Consulate has been offering, what is your vision for the Midwest?
CG: Apart from healthcare, our current focus is cooperation on energy issues, renewable energy and combating climate change. India is among the top 10 countries in Climate Change Performance Index. We are exceeding our Paris Treaty commitments and have set ambitious targets. In reaching our challenging target of 30% electrification in the auto industry by 2030, we see Michigan, which is the hub of manufacturing, as an important opportunity. It naturally becomes our resource, especially with battery storage and infrastructure (vehicle and charging). Augmentation of renewable energy also becomes a very important discussion area. This can only happen with a viable synergy with the Midwest. Our collaboration with Automation Alley, which is WEF advanced manufacturing hub and Industry 4.0 knowledge centre, becomes very crucial to this objective. Another core area of significance is higher education with knowledge-based partnerships. Michigan has several top-ranked universities with two universities in the Detroit area – UMich and MSU. We are likely to have more institutions join us. There is an opportunity to engage in joint research collaboration, curriculum design, dual degree programmes, etc. moving beyond student and faculty exchange. And of course, we continue working with the US around our traditional areas of strategy, security, and defense.
Where do you see Technology in your blueprint?
CG: Digital tech and services are a growing area globally. The digital footprint in our economies is growing. There is a necessity to adapt as we look at embedded technologies (automotive sector and other areas as well), 3D printing, AI, IoT etc. This all becomes very significant towards the areas that I outlined earlier. As we move into the future, different sectors need to integrate emerging technologies to sustain themselves and to expand.
Any other opportunities for the Michigan entrepreneurs?
CG: Food processing centers could be a potential opportunity for entrepreneurs especially since Michigan has strengths in this sector. $1.4B in incentives are available for food processing centers. The Government has announced similar incentives for several manufacturing sectors. There will be opportunities in defense and aerospace sector where Michigan has a fairly large base. Trade and commerce form a crucial component of the rapidly expanding and multi-faceted relations between India and U.S.
Could you please highlight some of the Consulate activities during the pandemic – especially with seniors and students?
CG: Just like any other country, we suspended regular travel between India and the US, but repatriated people to India through the Vande Bharat flight mission. Here, I must acknowledge the enormous help we received from the Indian community. They supplement our efforts. They stepped up to help stranded tourists, students, parents, senior citizens looking for prescription medicine etc. at the onset of COVID. Local community organizations were very engaged in serving a few stranded people with groceries. Some also offered accommodation to those in need. We received invaluable help during the second COVID-19 wave in India. Our Embassy and foreign office were in constant touch with the State Department / US Embassy and are glad to have received 35-40K international student visa slots for new students this fall.
Thanking the Indian community in Michigan, Consul General Mr. Amit Kumar offered all support for any Consulate services or queries.