US President Barack Obama landed in Mumbai today for his maiden India visit. His four-day stay, which marks the beginning of his Asian tour, is being watched with great interest here. And although he's been in India barely a few hours, there's already minute-by-minute reporting of his every move.
Obama began his visit by paying his respects to the victims of the 26/11 terror attacks at the iconic Taj Hotel in Mumbai. This stop was followed by a super high-powered Indo-US business council meeting of an unprecedented 300 plus business leaders from the United States and India (the US delegation alone has over 200 CEOs attending). Critical economic announcements are expected during Obama's stay, with the lead-up to the visit having been focusing on the possibility of some economic give-and-take (as well as co-operation over terrorism). Deals worth over $10 billion are expected to be announced and Obama is expected to address the council this evening.
But another critical area of co-operation – growing engagement in each other's education spheres – isn't being talked about as much. In the run up to the visit, India and the United States finalised plans for a 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. Within this ambitious programme, relationships between Indian and American universities will be incentivised, with those Indian and US universities undertaking joint research programmes and faculty training to be eligible for financial grants from both governments. I spoke to the principal of a leading Delhi University college this morning and she said Indian colleges had a lot to gain from the superior research standards and academic rigour of US universities.