The Heart of a Tycoon
It’s now two years since you established the Wadhwani
Chair at CSIS.
Romesh Wadhwani at the opening of the Wadhwani
Research Center for Biosciences and Bioengineering at
his alma mater, IIT-Bombay, last year.
The first is that CSIS is a truly bipartisan
I don’t want us to be in bed with one party,
one camp, one president, one prime minister.
The second is the board of trustees — Henry
Kissinger, Zbigniew Brezinski, Sam Nunn,
William Cohen — the great Democrats, great
In our board meetings they all talk collegially
with each other, they share great ideas with
The quality of the board was very impressive
and even though it had Republicans and
Democrats, or particularly because it had
Republicans and Democrats working together
in a bipartisan way.
The third is John Hamre (CSIS president). He
was very, very passionate about it, and in our
conversations he made it very clear that this
was so important to CSIS because it has a
Japan Program, a Korea Program, a China
Program, but it does not have an India
He felt this would be a very strong part of the
CSIS Foundation and that kind of passion and commitment
from the president of the policy think tank meant a lot.
So, it seems like the stars aligned.
Here you are thinking of setting up a chair and at the same
time these think tanks were trying to solicit people like you?
No, it was entirely initiated by me.
I wanted to set up a chair in US-India policy in a major
think tank, and I wanted to do it on both sides of the ocean
because I felt that you can’t clap with one hand.
If you’re going to do it in Washington, DC, we have to do it
in Delhi as well.
We are the ones who initiated conversations with CSIS and
Brookings and other institutes in DC. Similarly, in India, we
talked to ICRIER and two or three other policy think tanks
and in the end we picked these two partners.
But we were very much the initiators and drivers of the
conversations, reflecting a vision and a belief that I have.
When you left India did you ever think you would be what
you are today?
Not in my wildest dreams.
What was your ultimate dream?
It wasn’t even completely clear. But I kind of had a sense
that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
I kind of had a sense that I wanted to do well as an entrepreneur, but beyond that you know if you would have asked
me in those days, being a CEO of a million-dollar company
would have been my lifetime ambition.
That would have been the extent… I could not dream
beyond that. ;
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I would say we have begun extremely well.
However, what we have not done, and that’s the next phase
of the journey, is to create a basic strategic policy framework
to establish support for it, both within the US government
and the Indian government, and then to pick two or three key
initiatives from that overall policy framework and work on
actioning them over the next few years.
That’s the stage we are in right now.
The good news is that over the last two years we have been
able to build support from the Senate India Caucus, the
House India Caucus, and all the major departments of the
Similarly, the India Chair is building support from the
important departments of the Indian government, so it’s a
work in progress.
Will anything significant and high impact come from it? I
don’t know, but I would say that the early signs of it are very
We have achieved a lot in the last two years. Today, if you
want to go a policy think tank to talk about US-India policy,
you only go to CSIS.
Every minister who comes from India wants to go to CSIS
and talk to the team there, invite a group of people there.
When the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State
wants to talk about or to test out new ideas they go to CSIS.
Three years ago, they would not have done that.
Why CSIS and not some other think tank?
There were three very simple reasons.
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