On the final day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2017 at Bengaluru, the closing session was graced by the honorable President of India Shri Pranab Mukerjee, during which he felicitated several people of Indian origin for their contributions to society, science and human advancement.  The NRI Achievers team will bring you vignettes of these unique personalities and their work in this issue and in forthcoming editions as well.  We present here the first of such vignettes our editorial team has put together …


Professor Carani Balaraman Sanjeevi has been awarded the PBSA by the President of India in the feild of medicine, hospital & health care.  A professor at the Karolinska Institute, Dr. Sanjeevi heads a research group on “Diabetes Immunology” at the Center for Molecular Medicine in Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.  Professor Sanjeevi is also a Senior Advisor to the Innovation office of the Karolinska Institute. His  research focuses on developing novel biomarkers for early identification of auto-immune diabetes as maternal-foetal interaction in the etiology of type 1 diabetes.  Professor Sanjeevi has been a member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board since 2015.

Dr. Carani Sanjeevi is an eminent doctor of medicine and a highly qualified medical specialist who has been able to combine his professional responsibilities as medical prqactitioner with research and advancement of knowledge in the field of his specialization, i.e., the study of Diabetes. In the year 2013, he was selected as a member of the Nobel Prize Committee for Medicine and Physiology.  Dr. Sanjeevi has been a Senior Adviser in Life Sciences at the Invest in Sweden Agency (belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Sweden) which promotes Swedish investment abroad and in this capacity, he has consistently tried to foster connections between Swedish and Indian companies in the Health and Life Services sector.  He has been instrumental in arranging agreements between the Department of Biotechnology in the Indian Ministry of Science & Technology and the Centre for Molecular Medicine in Karolinska Institute. He has also played a very helpful role in the efforts to promote Ayurveda and Yoga in Sweden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      LAEL ANSON E. BEST

Israel’s Dr. Lael Anson E. Best, another recepient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award 2017, was felicitated for his services in the field of Medical Sciences as well.  The professor, a cardiothoracic surgeon, completed both his Bachelor’s in Medicine and his Master’s in Surgery from the University of Gujarat, India, before immigrating to Israel in 1979.

Dr. Lael Anson E. Best is a highly accomplished thoracic surgeon, who is currently a Consultant at the Rambam Medical Centre – among the best medical institutions of Israel.  During his career, he became a Fellow of the International College of Surgeons, a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians, Fellow of the American College of Surgery, Fellow of Cardiothoracic Surgery and, significantly, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.  He has won several outstanding awards of excellence from the Prime Minister, the President and Ministry of Health of Israel. In 2011, India’s then External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, presented Dr. Best with the Indian Empire Magazine’s award for excellence in medical sciences among the Indian Diaspora.  Dr. Best has a remarkable research and academic track record.  He received an Outstanding Lecturer Award more than once from the Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel. He has published two theses during his career and has 7 basic research publications and 28 clinical descriptive research publications to his credit. Twenty-five of his case reports have found their way into leading medical journals. He is among very few Israelis of Indian origin who have created a strong impact on Israeli society.


Nazeer Zackiriah, a permanent resident of the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, is an Indian-origin entrepreneur who has contributed to the strengthening of links between India, Brunei and the Indian community of Brunei. He has actively supported Indian Government initiatives and events and has ensured meaningful interactions with local and Indian entrepreneurs for visiting Indian delegations. He has enhanced local respect for the Indian community in Brunei through his active charitable endeavours, both in his individual capacity and as the President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce of Brunei.  By virtue of the recognition that he has obtained from His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei for these charitable and community-building efforts, he has been instrumental in raising the prestige and profile of the Indian community in Brunei as well.

Nazeer Ahamed has achieved notable success in the textile retail sector in Brunei. From humble beginnings, through hard work and acumen, he has built up the largest chain of textile stores of Brunei, which is now providing significant employment and promoting trade. He has contributed towards strengthening the link between the Indian community and Bruneians by organizing the active participation of the Indian community in Bruneian national events like the National Day of Brunei and the Birthday Celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   NISHA DESAI BISWAL

Nisha Desai Biswal has served as an Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs with the Obama Administgration of the United States, and is among the six other Indian American recipients of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards 2017.  She helmed the United States’ foreign policies and external affairs in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and other countries in central Asia.  Previous President Barack Obama had on 18th July, 2013 nominated her to head his South Asia bureau in the US state department.  Desai was the first person of Indian or even South Asian origin to head the bureau, which oversees US foreign policy and relations with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan. She was also the assistant administrator with USAID, which too was headed by an Indian-American, Rajiv Shah.

Nisha, a graduate of the University of Virginia, began her professional career in Washington DC with the American Red Cross in the mid-90s before joining USAID.  As a Hill staffer with the US House of Representatives; ‘International Relations Committee’ from 1999 to 2002, she worked extensively with diplomats from the region before going in for another stint with the NGO InterAction. From 2005 to 2010 she was the Majority Clerk for the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the Committee on Appropriations in the US, a crucial position close to the purse strings of American foreign aid.   Nisha Desai Biswal explains the secret of friendship with PM Narendra Modi that has often puzzled pundits in both countries.   Biswal, 48, a person of Indian origin, said in her acceptance speech after getting the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman from President Pranab Mukherjee at the valedictory event of the three-day Pravasi Bharat in Bengaluru: “Seeds for the chemistry between Barack Obama and Narendra Modi were sown much earlier. Obama had the cultural influences of his Indian-origin roommate in college, while Modi, as a young boy, travelled across the towns and cities of the USA. It led to a truly global partnership.  Modi has visited the US twice since he became PM and was given a warm welcome by Obama in the White House on both occasions. Obama also honoured Modi’s invitation and participated in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in January 2015.

Biswal, speaking on behalf of 30 awardees of very diverse backgrounds that included one PM, four MPs and people working in community service, medicine, arts and culture and business, also outlined her own efforts at improving the India-US relationship during the Obama administration. “I have sought to deepen the ties. I have kept the interests of my country, US and also worked for India. The wonderful thing is that the interests of two countries converge. Both believe in freedom, democracy, tolerance and pluralism. In the laws that govern our countries, etched in our very souls.”  She said Diwali is celebrated in every state in the US as well as the White House, while new Green Card holders could put the stamp representing this festival on their cards.  “It has become part of the cultural life and of the rich American tapestry. The story of the Indian immigrants is the story of America itself – independent, industrious and ambitious. Top companies like Google, Microsoft, Pepsi now have Indian American CEO’s. She added.  PM Antonio Luis Santos da Costa of Portugal, Priti Patel and Neena Gill of UK, Winston Chandarbhan Dookeran of Trinidad and Tobago, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth of Mauritius, were also recepients of the award. President Mukherjee echoed the pluralism mantra that Biswal spoke of and exhorted NRIs and PIOs to be emissaries of the Indian growth story.

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