As president of the U.S.-India Business Council, Nisha Biswal spends a lot of time thinking deeply about how the world’s two oldest and largest democracies can work together. Part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the USIBC represents a major alliance of government and the private sector focused on a common goal.
As Biswal says, “the United States and India have so many points of connectivity, from people-to-people ties, strong diaspora relationships, education, scientific collaboration and entrepreneurship. . . . We are two democracies that are founded on a similar set of principles and values. . . . These common values and shared experiences will continue to drive enduring closeness and collaboration. I think our destinies are aligned, and our paths will continue to be intertwined in the decades to come.”
Biswal’s call to public service came via her family’s roots. “Growing up in the United States,” she says, “I was always searching for meaning and belonging, and a desire to make a difference. During my visits to India, I would hear stories from my grandparents about how they marched with Gandhi-ji, participated in civil disobedience, and even spent time in British jails as part of India’s freedom struggle. . . . They felt connected to a cause bigger than themselves, and inspired by the great leaders of India’s independence. . . . This left a deep impression on me, and it has been a driving force for me to find ways to contribute to my country—the United States—and to make my life about something bigger than myself.”
The scale of that challenge can be daunting. Consider that between these two countries, you’re looking at the lives of over 1.8 billion people and combined economies of over $20 trillion. How does Biswal take it all in? “When dealing with geopolitical issues or large foreign policy budgets,” she admits, “it is easy to lose sight of the fact that everything you do ultimately has an impact at an individual level. I’ve seen that people’s hopes and aspirations are similar across the globe. People are thirsty for opportunity, they want security for their families, and they want to live lives of dignity. If we can play a role in helping them unleash their potential, that will help all of us create a world that is safer, more secure, and with greater opportunities for everyone.”
On that personal, human level, Biswal finds herself “moved by all those who work to give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, particularly people who work in their communities and through their churches, temples, and mosques to feed the hungry and provide shelter and support. . . . It’s really easy in this age of social media and celebrity culture to lose sight of the hard work and real impact that is being made quietly by so many in our society.”
Biswal doesn’t limit her international interests just to policy and business, though. “I love to cook, and I hope in the next ten years I can find a creative outlet for my love of global cuisines. I keep threatening to open a food truck someday!”