Asian American Leadership Delegation 2015 – Ajay Malhotra
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan hosted a delegation of six Asian American leaders hailing from a broad range of U.S. cities and demographic backgrounds during March 14-21, 2015. This inaugural visit was the first in what is planned as an annual event modeled after the highly successful and ling-running Japanese American Leadership Delegation program. MOFA intends to further enhance the already strong relationship between the United States and Japan through such direct, people-to-people exchanges at the grass-roots level.
Bottow Row: Left to Right: Daphne Kwok (Washington DC), Japan State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yasuhide Nakayama; David Lin (New Jersey)
Top Row: Trevor Ozawa (Hawaii), Hemant Digumarthi (Georgia), Daphne Ng (California), Ajay Malhotra (Oregon)
I was deeply honored to be selected as one of six delegates from across the United States for the inaugural 2015 "Asian American Leadership Delegation" which was hosted by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan between March 14-21, 2015. The program is modeled after the long-running and highly successful Japan American Leadership Delegation. The overall intent of the program is to enable community leaders to deepen their understanding of the historic US-Japan relationship. The other delegates were a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Indian ethnicities. Most had little prior exposure to Japan.
In my own situation, I had been to Japan many times in the past for professional and personal reasons (I am married to a third generation Japanese American myself). However, I had never experienced such a unique opportunity to be educated in great detail about the Japanese government's position on many important subjects. During our visit, we had access to the highest levels of elected and appointed government officials, policy makers and bureaucrats. At a time of rising geo-political tension with Asian neighbors, against a backdrop of instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, terrorism, health crises such as Ebola, cyber-security challenges, MOFA feels that Japanese contributions to world peace, the desire for peaceful and lawful resolutions of conflict, and a long history of rich Japanese culture and innovation may not be adequately recognized by the global community. This delegation was one of various efforts intended to ensure that the Japanese view on these subjects is conveyed broadly and clearly via in-person exchange visits with the hope for amplification of these sentiments in the home communities of the Asian American leaders selected.
The visit was remarkable for several reasons, amongst which was the frank and candid discussion of highly sensitive subjects, including Japan's complex relationships with China, South Korea and North Korea; issues relating to the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima, the comfort women issue and the rewriting of text books issue. As MOFA shared, Japan wishes to make a proactive contribution to peace. Prime Minister Abe is expanding diplomatic and defense capabilities, and seeks to adapt the national security framework to achieve the right of collective self-defense vs. solely individual self-defense. These complex subjects are highly nuanced and receive tremendous media attention.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II. As MOFA has shared, despite this passage of seven decades, true global peace remains elusive and there is no shortage of conflict and strife across the world. The AALD program goal is to deepen understanding of US-Japan relationships through grass roots exchange of views and ensure that Japan’s political position, track record and contributions to world peace and security are clearly and unambiguously understood. From that perspective, the trip was a tremendous success. In addition, I was also able to develop a strong relationship with the other delegates, which is a foundation for a broader community of individuals in the coming years of this program. I am deeply appreciative for the opportunity and look forward to engaging in dialogue with the local Portland community on the continuing evolution of the US-Japan relationship.
Copyright © 2013 Consular Office of Japan in Portland