The conference began with a keynote address by distinguished Columbia University professor Jagdish Bhagwati, a noted scholar on free trade and globalization. Bhagwati, who has been honored by the Indian government for his work, discussed the potential impacts of the Indian diaspora in America on the U.S. relationship with India.
- Unexpressed Desires: Bhagwati argued that the Indian-American community has had a smaller impact than expected for a group its size because its members have not clearly articulated their policy preferences. He suggested that better formulation of these goals would lead to the group’s desired outcomes.
- Economic Policy: One potential area of impact for the Indian-American community that Bhagwati noted was economic policy. He cautioned against the tendency of U.S. politicians to adopt hardline stances against outsourcing, and suggested that greater representation of Indian-American voices might temper the political forces that prompt candidates to embrace such positions.
- Expanding Immigration: Bhagwati also argued that Indian-Americans are largely left out of the current debate on immigration reform, and that the community could leverage its voting bloc to ensure that the focus of immigration policy is not too narrowly tailored to the Hispanic community.