NEW DELHI – As we embark on Brandeis’ second overseas mission since I became president, one of the uppermost thoughts in my mind is how much the first trip, to Israel, and this second, to India, have in common.
The goals of the missions — broadening scientific collaboration, increasing opportunities for our students to study abroad and for students from abroad to study at Brandeis, strengthening our alumni networks — are virtually identical.
And this is so not only because these are among the cornerstones of our strategy for global engagement, but because Israel and India have so very much in common. Both are front-runners in the global competition in scientific research and technological innovation. Both are pioneering new thinking on global issues and new solutions for global problems. Both are vibrant and diverse democracies, with all the strengths and challenges that presents. It is thus not surprising that India and Israel are at the top of the list of countries where Brandeis sees opportunities.
India and Israel are growing steadily closer. This is reflected in their rapidly expanding bilateral trade, reported recently by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be at $5 billon a year, nearly 30 times the level when formal diplomatic ties were inaugurated just 20 years ago. A Free Trade Agreement the countries say they intend to finalize this year is expected to accelerate the trend.
Both Israel and India are home to outstanding institutions of scientific research that have links with Brandeis’ own world-class scholars. Many on all sides of this nascent triangle are interested in further developing those relations. We took steps in that direction during last summer’s trip to Israel, and will be exploring those possibilities next week in Bangalore, India’s science and technology center.
The two countries also are committed to the goal of sustainable international development, because of the realities of their own food, water and energy situations and out of a sincere desire to make our world a healthier place. Brandeis is a pioneer and acknowledged leader in the study and practice of sustainable development, and already has links to practitioners in both countries.
India and Israel are challenged as well as bolstered by the diversity of their populations, challenges sharpened in recent years by restive minorities and aggressive sub-groups within the majorities. The questions that confront them resonate with questions of identity with which many of us at Brandeis grapple.
My public program here begins with a conversation with Soli Sorabjee, a former attorney general of India and internationally recognized human rights champion, for whom a distinguished lecture series at Brandeis is named. Our topic is “Justice in Diverse Societies.”
India is the perfect place for the program, just as it is the perfect place for my second Brandeis mission.