Eminent Indian-American entrepreneur and activist Swadesh Chatterjee, who is known for his immense contribution to strengthening the US-India relationship over the past three decades, has been presented with the highest award by the US state of North Carolina.
North Carolina’s Governor Ray Cooper presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Chatterjee, 75, at a ceremony on Friday in Cary, a town in the state.
Cooper described Chatterjee as “a spark plug among us” as he applauded his contribution not only to the development of North Carolina but also to the India-US relationship and enriching the cultural milieu of the United States.
America’s former ambassador to India, Rich Verma, said Chatterjee who received Padma Bhushan from the Indian Government in 2001, has been at the centre of the key moments that have brought the Indian and US governments closer.
Beginning in 2000 when things started to turn upward in the India-US relationship, Chatterjee “was at the centre of the quintessential events that have defined modern US-India ties”.
The key developments included former president Bill Clinton’s trip to India in 2000 when he brought to India a message of hope and renewal in the partnership.
“Swadesh was not only on the trip with the president, but he was also one of the community leaders who made the trip happen,” he said.
Chatterjee played a big role in the Us-India Civil Nuclear deal, he said, adding that he was instrumental in the evolution of bipartisan support to this relationship over the past two decades.
Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna recognised him as a great leader for the national Indian American community.
Khanna said Chatterjee was one of the very first Indian Americans in the entire country to get politically engaged.
“He has been instrumental in really forging a post-Cold War relationship between the United States and India, which is going to be critical as we see the rise of China,” he said.
In a video message, India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said that Chatterjee put in tireless efforts to strengthen bilateral ties between India and the US.
“He is an example of how the diaspora plays an important role in creating a better understanding of India in the United States and vice versa,” Sandhu said.
In his acceptance speech, Chatterjee said that the India-US relationship has come a long way thanks to the efforts of the Indian-American community in the state and in the US.
“But, there are still a lot more important challenges to be done, because the world has changed drastically in the last five-six years,” he said.
“The US-India partnership has just scratched the surface in global health, education, clean energy, and innovation,” Chatterjee said.
“I am really optimistic and also very gung ho about the future of the US- India relationship,” he said.