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University News

Former Indian ambassador to U.S. joins Watson Institute

Nirupama Rao plans to write a book on the role of public diplomacy in Indian foreign policy

Contributing Writer
Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nirupama Rao, who finished her tenure as India’s ambassador to the United States earlier this month, has been appointed a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies for 2014, the University announced last week.

Rao is the third recipient of the Meera and Vikram Gandhi Fellowship and the first full-year fellow, said Ashutosh Varshney, director of the Brown-India Initiative and professor of international studies and social sciences.

“I bring greetings from India, a strategic partner and genuine friend of the United States,” Rao wrote in an email to the Herald.

Rao added that she is “deeply thrilled about the prospect of a year at Brown.” She hopes to “translate (her) experience in diplomacy into academic work (that) would benefit students and scholars of India” and to “engage in serious research and academic work in a world-class university like Brown,” she wrote.

Meera and Vikram Gandhi created the fellowship in 2011 through a gift to the Brown-India Initiative, Varshney said. The fellowship is meant to bring Indian policymakers, reporters and public intellectuals to campus. Previous fellows include Yogendra Yadav, a professor of political science at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in India, and journalist Barkha Dutt.

Rao’s appointment is jointly funded by the Meera and Vikram Gandhi Fellowship and the Watson Institute, Varshney said.

Varshney said Rao is “essentially free” to organize any activity that “advances the purposes of the fellowship.”

Rao will hold office hours and may recruit students as research assistants, Varshney added. “One or two students (may get) the opportunity to work closely with her,” Varshney said.

Rao wrote that she plans to write a book about “the use of public diplomacy in managing key foreign policy relationships for India.”

Rao, who holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in English literature, has previously published a collection of poetry, “Rain Rising.” In her email, she described poetry as “a mirror of your deepest emotions and sensibilities.”

Rao has previously visited Brown twice — she attended the inauguration of the Brown-India Initiative in 2012, and this February, she presented a lecture on India and the American “pivot” to Asia.

Rao wrote that she “was struck … by the intellectual energy and dynamism of the environment at Brown.” She also described “the historic feel of Providence and the architecture of the place.”

Rao’s lecture was chaired by President Christina Paxson and attended by Provost Mark Schlissel P’15. “During that visit … it became clear that (Rao) might be interested” in coming to Brown after her ambassadorship ended, Varshney said.

The Brown-India Initiative’s steering committee nominated Rao, and the administration approved it earlier this semester, Varshney said.

Rao was a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard during the 1992-1993 school year.

Sonia Feigenbaum, associate provost for international affairs, said the Office of International Affairs supports “faculty, staff and all of the departments” to recruit more “scholars and lecturers from (an) international background.”

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  1. Descendants Seek US Soldiers’ Remains From Arunachal Pradesh
    sharp counterpoint to Mr. Ashutosh Varshney’s glowing tributes to
    retiring Indian Ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao, who’s now a
    visiting scholar at Brown, it should be noted that both Ambassador Rao
    and US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell have proven to be profound
    disappointments to the hundreds of American families waiting for the
    Indian Government to permit the recovery of the remains
    of their loved ones – World War II aviators who perished in India while
    fighting the Japanese – from their documented crash sites in India’s
    northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. (see the 2013 article below in
    the International Business Times.) Despite repeated entreaties from
    these families, neither of these two diplomats so much as lifted a
    little finger to expedite the recovery of these valiant Americans’
    remains. Hopefully, Ambassador Rao’s successor, Shri Jaishankar, will
    use his influence with the Indian Government to get the remains of our
    heroes recovered from Indian territory before more of their relatives
    back home in the US pass on without the closure they deserve.
    Gary Zaetz (Cary, North Carolina), nephew of USAAF 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz,
    missing in action in India’s northeast since January 25, 1944.

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