Born in Somamukhi, W.B, India in 1947, Swadesh Chatterjee first arrived in the United States from Calcutta, India in November 1978 with his wife and young daughter. He became an American citizen in 1993. During the last 20 years Swadesh has risen to prominence within the Indian American Community, not only in his home state of North Carolina, but also nationally. In 1998, he was elected National President of the Indian American Forum for Political Education, a nationwide organization whose goals are to boost the political participation by members of the Indian American Community and to improve the relationship between the United States and India. During his tenure as National President, the IAFPE has risen in stature such that it now speaks with one the most powerful voices in Washington (the Indian American Caucus is the second largest caucus on Capital Hill). For instance, in October of 1999 for the first time in history, the power of the Indian American political voice was put on display in a front-page story in the Washington Post. Swadesh’s steadfast belief and diligence in improving U.S.-Indian relations has been the driving force behind a new and more pro-India U.S. Policy. He was one of the few Indian Americans who briefed and accompanied President Clinton on his historic trip to India in 2000 and also was a major champion for the success of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to the United States in 2000.
Swadesh is a successful businessman and entrepreneur who is President of an industrial instrumentation company in North Carolina. He has traveled worldwide and develops international business relationships, especially within Asia. Long a proponent of U.S. – India trade as the best method of bringing the two countries closer together, he has been instrumental in bringing Indian Trade Delegations to North Carolina and to Washington. He is also one of the co-Founders of TiE North Carolina, a group of successful businesspeople whose main goal is to produce and assist fledgling entrepreneurs. Governor James B. Hunt also appointed him a member of the North Carolina Entrepreneurial Development Board.
Swadesh has a B. S. Degree in Physics from Calcutta University, a B. S. Degree in Instrumentation and Electronic Engineering from Jadavpur University and a M. S. Degree in Business Management from North Carolina State University. His wife is a practicing physician. Swadesh, his wife Manjusri, daughter Sohini and son Souvik presently reside in Cary, North Carolina.
Swadesh Chatterjee on receiving the 2001 Padma Bhushan Award
January 26, 2001, Statement
“I wish to express my heart-felt gratitude and thanks to the Indian government, and the people of India, for bestowing upon me the Padma Bhushan award. As a young boy growing up in the small town of Somamukhi, W.B. I remember how ‘in awe’ I was of the men and women who were chosen to receive these honors. Then they were my heroes. Today I look upon them as legends. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I too would be so honored. I am humbled by this great honor and acknowledge that it is not me who has been recognized, but the whole Indian American community.
I am proud to be an American of Indian origin. I have always believed that we Indian Americans are fortunate to be the children of two mothers. India, which gave us our lives and the United States, which gives us our lively hood. I left India to seek my dreams, but I have never left her behind. Though I am out of India, believe me, India is not out of me. This award reaffirms my allegiance to my mother land.
I and other Indian Americans, through the Indian American Forum for Political Education, have worked diligently to improve the relationship between the United States and India. Only we, Indian Americans, could see so clearly the common ground that should, and could, exist between our two great nations. In the last decade, Indian Americans have awakened and realized that we can bring a unique perspective to the US-India relationship. As a bridge between our two nations, it is our moral responsibility to make sure that these two beloved Nations of ours avoid constant misunderstandings and refocus on the synergy of their national interest.
As we begin the new millennium, I can proudly say that US-India relations have never been better. Indian Americans have seen the relationship between our two countries come from the lowest depths to the height of great expectations. We have been instrumental in a US Presidential visit to India and an Indian Prime Minister visit to Washington. We have helped to set policy, we have taught and we have led. History has been made and I was there to give it a little push. I am proud that I am able to participate in such a grand and worthy endeavor. This is a new century full of great promise and opportunity. I will continue to be diligent and will not allow all that we have accomplished to disappear.
This is the first time an Indian American has been named in the category of “Public Affairs”. I hope I have broken the ice, because there are so many other deserving candidates. I am sure that they will also be honored in the years to come.
Let me end by recognizing my wife, Manjusri, my daughter Sohini and my son Souvik. Their support and encouragement has played a major role in all my successes. Again, I would like to thank all those responsible for conferring upon me this outstanding honor, the Padma Bhushan award.”