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Indian consul general travels to Wyoming to meet governor, university officials and Indian students

An older White man poses for a photo with an Indian man.
Consulate General of India, Seattle
Consul General Prakash Gupta met with Gov. Mark Gordon during his visit to Laramie on June 4.

The Indian consul general for our region completed a whirlwind visit to Laramie this week, meeting with the governor, local officials and Indian students at the University of Wyoming.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Chris Clements spoke with Consul General Prakash Gupta, the head of a newly formed consulate in Seattle, about how Wyoming and India can develop closer ties.

Editor’s Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Chris Clements: Thank you so much for joining me today, consul general.

Prakash Gupta: Thank you so much for having me. This is my first visit to Wyoming, the most beautiful state, [with] lush open spaces.

CC: And that's [one of the things] I wanted to ask you – what do you think about visiting our state after representing India in so many other more bustling metropolises?

PG: Look, every station is a unique experience for us. We are in the process of opening India's first consulate in the Pacific Northwest in Seattle. Out of Seattle, we look after nine states, making it geographically one of the largest consulates in the United States for India. So we cover all the states from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. So what brings me here is that this is part of our consulate’s territory. And since this is a first and unique assignment for me, I wanted to touch base with the leadership here in Wyoming. [I] had an excellent interaction with Gov. Gordon in the morning, and since then have been visiting the University of Wyoming and doing other engagements. So it's been fabulous so far.

CC: Could you tell me, and us, a bit about what you spoke to Gov. Mark Gordon about?

PG: Yes. It was a very good meeting. We discussed a possible roadmap for cooperation between India and Wyoming for the next one year. The areas that we focused on: one is clean energy technologies. We are looking at doing a kind of clean energy symposium somewhere towards next year, where we could [have] the Indian clean energy companies and get them to interact with companies in Wyoming. That's for the first quarter of next year.

The other thing we discussed was cooperation in the higher education space, particularly with the University of Wyoming. And that covers a lot of areas, including joint research projects, joint faculty exchange, and possibly bringing to Wyoming a very unique, immersive Indian experience for a week, called the India Culture Week for American students at the University of Wyoming. [It] will showcase a week-long experience of an Indian film festival, an Indian food festival, Indian cultural dance performances showcasing various states of India, an exhibition on Incredible India on the tourism potentialities between Wyoming in India. Also [there will be] a lecture series on eminent Indian personalities and things which the younger generation is interested in – artificial intelligence, quantum computing and the like. So that was in the area of higher education.

And another thing we discussed was – [that] I think has good potential between Wyoming in India – is trade in agricultural products. I think India is also primarily an agricultural country, we could bring in some good Indian coffee to Wyoming, we could bring in other products. And similarly, Wyoming could export its stuff from the agricultural space to India. I also realized that the governor has not yet visited India so far. So I [told] him that India today is 1/6 of humanity, 1.43 billion people, the world's largest population, growing at 8.4 percent was our last GDP growth rate. It's the fastest growing economy in the world. It's the fifth largest economy in the world. And the plus part is we have a young demographic dividend, which no country has. So 65 percent of our population is below the age of 30 and between 18. We're talking about 950 million people. So I think there's huge potential for India and the U.S. to work together, particularly with Wyoming in the context of clean energy technologies.

CC: Do you think Gov. Gordon will come visit?

PG: We have an in principle assurance of the visit being considered for next year – how the U.S. processes work that forward is entirely the governor’s call. But we have extended an invitation to him to lead a delegation to India.

CC: To back up for a minute to what you were just mentioning about the clean energy symposium – what do Indian companies hope to learn about our sectors here?

PG: One aspect is learning about. That's one aspect of the piece. The larger aspect is: how can India and the U.S. work together on clean energy technologies and make it for the benefit of the entire world? That's where I see great potential in Indian companies working together with Wyoming companies, sharing experience, sharing expertise, technical know-how, and scaling it up in other southern settings. So in my view, there are individual success stories on both sides, and if companies work together, they can really scale up the canvas of cooperation.

CC: And when you mentioned agricultural exports, what did you have in mind there?

PG: As I said, India has a very good coffee called Araku coffee. The U.S. is a coffee drinking country. We'd like that to be introduced in this part of the world. It is very popular, I believe, in the eastern side of the U.S. in New York and in northeast Asia. We'd like to bring that here. We also believe there is potential for collaboration in the wines and liquors space. India is a whiskey drinking country, we’d like to introduce some of the Indian alcohol here. So these are some of the stuff that we would like to bring. From the context of Washington state where our consulate is based, Washington exports a lot of apples to India, good quality apples in large numbers. Blueberries, cherries, nuts, these are things that are going to India. So if there are agricultural products in Wyoming, which have a potential for India, we could consider looking at them.

A man stands near a brick building.
Chris Clements
/
Wyoming Public Media
Consul General Prakash Gupta outside Knight Hall on the University of Wyoming campus. Gupta visited the university on June 4, 2024 as part of a diplomatic visit to Wyoming.

CC: What kind of assistance does the consulate itself offer folks who are from India living in Wyoming?

PG: A consulate or an embassy primarily addresses, in its consular function, the interests of the Indian community stationed abroad. So if there are Indian nationals who have come into the United States from India, and are holding Indian passports, we give them a full range of consular passport services. We process their Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards, we process visa requests, we process attestation of documents, we do death certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates. Because coming so far abroad here on foreign soil, they need a lot of guidance, mentoring and counseling, particularly for Indian students here.

I believe there are close to 100 students studying at the University of Wyoming. And I was very happy to meet some of them here today in my visit to the University of Wyoming, and they're doing very well for themselves and for the university. Several of them have been PhD students in biological sciences, in the energy space, and are doing good. So what we have done as part of our consular profile role, is we have created a group of student coordinators wherever Indian students are studying, whether it's University of Washington, Seattle University, or Wyoming University. And we have information which the government of India has done for the benefit of Indian students studying abroad. So we have created this common Whatsapp group where we share this information, and then they disseminate it to the wider Indian student community here. So there are many aspects in which we can take care of the interests of the Indian community abroad. And that continues to be a work in progress.

CC: What did some of these students tell you, in general, about their experience here in Wyoming?

PG: Obviously, given Wyoming's location, simple things like bread and butter issues of not having access to Indian grocery stores, which people in New Jersey or New York have easily, remain a bit of a kind of a concern. But again, they have a good community, they do Indian functions, they do an Indian Diwali festival here at the University of Wyoming. So it's a good bonding group that they have got amongst themselves.

CC: Is the government of India itself considering any kinds of investment into sectors in Wyoming?

PG: We would be open to investment. Again, many companies are investing in companies are investing abroad. So if there are good investment opportunities, say in quantum computing, open generative AI, space technology or agriculture or clean energy, it's up to the private sector industry to take advantage of it. We can provide this information to them and encourage them to make the best use of it.

CC: Thank you so much for joining me today, consul general. I really do appreciate it.

PG: Thank you so much for having me. I wish all your viewers all the very best, [and] greetings from a billion plus people of India. We recently concluded the world's largest election exercise. In India, it was called the dance of democracy. More than 900 million people turned out to vote. And we share that thriving democracy with the U.S. and India, together. So wishing them all the very best and hope some of the presidents of Wyoming can get to visit and experience India soon, with the consulate now being here in your area. Thank you so much.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

Chris Clements is a state government reporter and digital media specialist for Wyoming Public Media based in Laramie. He came to WPM from KSJD Radio in Cortez, Colorado, where he reported on Indigenous affairs, drought, and local politics in the Four Corners region. Before that, he graduated with a degree in English (Creative Writing) from Arizona State University. Chris's news stories have been featured on KUNC, NPR newscasts, and National Native News, among others.
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