New Delhi: From pulling off Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest ever event with the Indian diaspora in the US, a potential $7.5 billion energy deal, a second meeting with US President Donald Trump in three days to lining up top CEOs from some of the biggest companies in the US – meet the man who has been working hard to make it all a success – India’s ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
A career diplomat who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1984 and the youngest in his batch, Shringla has been variously described by peers, juniors, and seniors as “no nonsense" and “sharp."
Though the “Howdy Modi" Indian diaspora event in Houston is being organised by Texas India Forum (TIF), it has of course been in close coordination with the Indian embassy in Washington headed by Shringla besides the Indian consulate in Houston. The event will be the largest ever gathering of Indian-American and Indian communities in the US – some 50,000 people have signed up for it. And in that sense it overtakes the 2014 Madison Square Garden and the 2015 San Jose events that Modi has earlier addressed.
The “Howdy Modi" event will also see a number of US lawmakers in attendance – a testament to appreciation of the role played by the Indian community as much as proof of the outreach of the Indian embassy in Washington to the US House of Representatives as well as the Senate.
Prior to the “Howdy Modi" event, soon after his arrival on Saturday, Modi met the CEOs of 16 companies including Baker Hughes, Cheniere Energy, Exxonmobil, Lyondellbasell Industries, Schlumberger and Tellurian Inc. And immediately after, India’s state-run Petronet LNG Ltd signed a pact to negotiate the sourcing of around 5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) liquefied natural gas (LNG) from US developer Tellurian Inc’s Driftwood project in Louisiana.
“Pulling together these events and ensuring their success is the work of the Indian ambassador," said a person familiar with the events in the US who did not want to be named. “Of course, there would have been broad directions from the prime minister’s office and the foreign minister’s office, but putting together the programme and ensuring their success is the work of the ambassador," the person said.
In New York, Shringla has set up a second meeting between Trump and Modi in three days – this time a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly scheduled for 24 September.
Also in New York there is second meeting with heads of a record 45 US companies including the Bank of America, Coca Cola, Deloitte, IBM, Cisco Systems Inc, JPMorgan & Chase, Lockheed Martin, MasterCard - Financial Services, Microsoft and Qualcomm Technology. This is to take place on 25 September.
What may have helped Shringla pull off such varied events with perfect aplomb is his background. A look at his resume shows he has worked for corporates and state-run firms after graduating from Delhi University’s St. Stephen's College and prior to joining the Indian Foreign Service. It also says that he pursued courses and has published papers on economic diplomacy besides the Indian diaspora as well as conflict prevention and India-Bangladesh relations.
Just prior to his appointment as India’s ambassador to the US, Shringla was India’s high commissioner to Bangladesh where he oversaw the steadying and consolidation of New Delhi’s ties with its eastern neighbour. Many projects like the supply of 500 MW additional power supply from India to Bangladesh through Baharampur - Bheramara interconnection and construction work of the Bangladesh part of Akhaura-Agartala railway link took place during his tenure.
It was during his term as joint secretary Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar between 2011-13 that India and Bangladesh signed a protocol to implement the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement during a visit to Dhaka by then prime minister Manmohan Singh. The agreement was however cleared by Parliament in 2015 and signed during prime minister Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015. The signing of the pact brought about a significant change in the quality of ties between the two countries.
Besides being the high commissioner in Dhaka, Shringla has served as Ambassador of India to Thailand. He has also held posts in UNESCO, to India’s mission to the UN, in Indian missions in Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City), Israel and South Africa (Durban).