Captain America goes Delhi

Written by Liberty Shockley (University of Cincinnati) Student Correspondent UW in India, Summer 2017

Our time in Delhi was spent differently than most groups with CET. The students in this summer program are almost all sponsored by Project GO (PGO), a program for Air Force and Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets to learn a critical language. Due to this, our awesome staff worked with our PGO coordinator to get us into briefings with the U.S. Embassy and the Indian Army, to give us a unique experience that could impact our careers.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos in these locations, so please enjoy photos of our shenanigans on our other events during our time in Delhi. We visited the Qtab Minar, Ghandi’s Memorial, the Sikh Gurdwara, Old Delhi, and Kaus Hauz.

The first day, we met with Indian Army Major General Alok Deb (retired) who is the Deputy Director General for the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Wing Commander Anand Rao of the Center for Airpower Studies (CAPS), and two of their companions.

I pose after dancing down the walkway

The missions and priorities of the Indian Military are much different than ours in America. A lot of the world thinks of us as “World Police” and we are known for being everywhere. In India, they are much more inwardly focused. Maj Gen Deb told us, “This is the bottom line; our main concern is to yank India out of poverty.” India is an interesting place to analyze; it’s such a young country with a jam-packed population in a critical part of the world. India has relations with Russia, Great Britain, the United States, Australia, Japan, and works with conflicts, both peaceful and not, in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and other Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries.

The Indian military is struggling with the heavy bureaucracy the British left behind, equipment with instruction manuals that are in 4 or 5 different languages, a military structure mash-up between China, America, and Britain’s models, and new responsibilities every day.

Some of the best innovative minds are coming from India to the United States and it is paying off. Indians are the highest paid minority in America. This leads me to question why India has so many growing pains. We have heard a lot that America is a special place. It’s not common around the rest of the world for the general population to have such a heated commentary on its leadership. People here in India just don’t question military drone usage, federal budget, the structure of these agencies, and whatnot. They are more concerned with how to keep out corruption, and survive day to day.

How would the culture of the military change if there were public opinions thrown around? Would a public eye on military capability encourage innovation? Would this foster opportunities for brilliant young Indians to thrive in a military environment?

“We are a young country. Comparatively, it’s harder for us to unite and grow up in this world.”

– Major General Deb

Students test the waters at the Gurdwara

Our second day in Delhi featured a visit to the U.S. Embassy. This was by far our favorite series of briefings. The embassy felt like home, with boring floor tiles, fluorescent lighting, and photos in a simple black frame, including one of Madison, Wisconsin’s capitol! We enjoyed talking with a Lieutenant Colonel and a Major from the Army, a Major from the Air Force, and a few civilians working there. They gave us detailed briefings on the current state of India and how our joint-operations work. The Lt Col shared with us what his family thought about living in Delhi for 3 years, and the Majors told us all how to get their jobs down the road.

Chloe tests her monkey skills on a tree branch

An example that was given to us on why India is a key ally on this half of the planet was military humanitarian response to the devastating earthquake that hit the Langtang region in Nepal in 2015. This earthquake killed over 9,000 people and destroyed countless ancient structures and homes all the way into the Kathmandu Valley. Nepal was not prepared for this hit, and it was fortunate the international community rallied to help. India was the first friend on the ground in Nepal, thankfully their pilots had experience making high-altitude landings on sketchy runways, and was providing water and supplies hours before anyone else was able to reach the area. To give you more of a perspective, 75% of the US’s Humanitarian Relief Budget was spent on fuel for the Carriers to take supplies to Nepal. South Asia is literally across the world.

“India has the best cybersecurity in the world — because they do everything by paper!” There’s never any email scandals because you have to fax over questions. While India is experiencing growing pains, our relationship with them is so important. Leadership on both sides of the table like to learn from each other about tactics, structures, equipment, and culture. Getting to hear thoughts from both sides in an honest, intimate setting was extremely insightful to the impact our language studies could have on our careers. I don’t know about the rest of my companions, but I’m banking on a reunion in Rajasthan for Staff College in a few years. I can’t wait to learn more.