From America to India and Back Again
Serving as the Chairman of the FCC has been the greatest professional honor of my life. It has given me the chance to travel across the country and around the world — meeting people whose stories inform our policy-making and inspire me personally.
I just returned from perhaps the most memorable trip of my Chairmanship — representing my country as part of a U.S. delegation to India that was headed by the President of the United States. I’m grateful to the White House for extending an invitation to me to participate in bilateral meetings and other events associated with the trip.
My part of the trip began in New Delhi, India’s capital, where the Government of India’s hospitality was immediately apparent. On Monday, February 24, I started off by visiting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India—essentially, the Indian FCC. It was wonderful as always seeing my friend, Chairman Ram Sharma, and holding a town hall where I answered numerous questions from the agency’s talented officers.
I also had a chance to meet with Shri Anshu Prakash, the top telecom official within the Department of Telecommunications. We discussed several of the FCC’s innovative spectrum policies, such as the 3.5 GHz band, the 3.7–4.2 GHz band (what we call in the United States the “C-band”), and the 6 GHz Wi-Fi proposal, among other things.
And we met with the National Cyber Security Coordinator, Lieutenant General Rajesh Pant, to talk about telecom supply chain issues. It is clear to me that all of these agencies are interested in working with the FCC, and the U.S. government generally, on a variety of communications issues.
For me, the capstone of the trip came on Tuesday, February 25, just before the start of expanded bilateral meetings between the leaders our governments. I walked into the room where those meetings would be held. Soon after, the President of the United States introduced me to the Prime Minister of India. The Prime Minister took my hand, and said: “We are very proud of you.”
In that moment, I thought about my family. I thought about all they’ve done for me over the past five decades — how my parents came to America with $8, a transistor radio, and a belief that the American Dream would be within reach, and how our family had now come full circle. I pondered how much they have shaped who I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I wish they could have been there to share in the moment. It was an unforgettable experience and a tremendous honor.
After the bilateral meetings, the Prime Minister hosted a social lunch, where I had a chance to meet with Indian government and business leaders. Among others, it was a pleasure to chat with the head of NASSCOM, an Indian information technology and entrepreneurship trade association, about innovation in the subcontinent. And I enjoyed hearing the life story of the head of Unilever’s Indian operations, who described how much India had changed over the years, how gratifying it was that his career brought him back to India, and how the company still made some of the Indian products I remembered fondly from when I used to visit as a kid (Pear’s soap, for instance).
Later in the afternoon, we went to the U.S. Embassy, which contains both the diplomatic offices of our local State Department employees as well as the Residence of U.S. Ambassador to India Ken Juster. The President hosted a business roundtable at which he took questions from executives of various companies that had invested, and were planning on investing more, in the United States.
After the roundtable, the President and the First Lady went to the outside of the Residence and thanked the many Embassy staff and their families, who were gathered on the lawn. Our diplomats do terrific work across the many areas in which American and Indian interests intersect. I personally appreciate all they do to represent us in India (and in particular, Nathan Halat, a smart, dedicated Foreign Service Officer who drew the short straw and was stuck with me during the trip)!
I won’t forget the evening’s events anytime soon. The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, who is the country’s ceremonial head of state, hosted a State Banquet in honor of the President and the First Lady. Our hosts decorated the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India, in colored lights reflecting the flags each of our countries (saffron, white, and green for India, and red, white, and blue for the United States).
The interior was spectacularly adorned as well, from the room into which the Presidents and First Ladies entered and through which they walked the receiving line, to the banquet hall itself.
(After the dinner, I managed to sneak in a selfie with fellow State Banquet attendee A.R. Rahman, the Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winning musician who composed the soundtrack for the 2008 hit movie Slumdog Millionaire.)
And then, seemingly just a moment after we’d arrived, it was time to return home. Even that part of the trip was memorable— mainly because of the ride home. I’d seen pictures of it and seen movies about it, but I had never before flown on Air Force One. It gave me chills to get an up-close view of the plane with the iconic “United States of America” emblazoned on the side.
It was incredible to be on board and see the professional Air Force staff at work. And I can reveal that they stock a good number of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (helpful for me), among other accoutrements.
Having returned to the United States, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the trip to India. I feel an even deeper appreciation of the common values our countries share, an even stronger determination to help bring the world’s oldest and largest democracies even closer together, and ever more gratitude for all it means to be an Indian-American. This trip was professionally and personally meaningful for me, and I’ll always cherish the opportunity.