The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s assumption of power offers an opportunity to reinvigorate U.S.–India ties and for the two countries to work together for mutual benefit in such areas as defense, security, trade, and counterterrorism. Many argue that the Obama Administration will be too distracted with other foreign policy challenges to focus on the relationship with India, but the reality is that the two countries need each other to cope with global challenges, especially when it comes to international terrorism and maintaining a stable balance of power in the Asia–Pacific region. Both sides should seek to deepen their interactions and cooperation in a purposeful manner while learning to manage day-to-day irritants that almost certainly will arise.

Lisa Curtis

If ever there were a time to expect U.S.–India relations to improve, many would say it is now. The new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has promised to open the economy to more private investment, improve the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, create jobs for the rapidly growing youth population, and quicken the pace of India’s defense modernization.

If the new government sticks to this agenda, it will present numerous opportunities for expanded Indo–U.S. cooperation on a range of issues. New Delhi and Washington share similar strategic objectives, whether they involve countering terrorism, maintaining open and free seaways throughout the Indo–Pacific region, or hedging against China’s rise.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made clear during his recent visit to India that Prime Minister Modi will receive a warm reception when he visits Washington in September. The U.S.–India joint statement issued after the fifth round of Strategic Dialogue talks detailed an ambitious agenda to take the relationship to the next level.

Before the end of the year, for example, they are committed to holding a meeting of the Counterterrorism Joint Working Group, ministerial-level Homeland Security and Trade Policy Forum dialogues, and a CEOs Forum, as well as the next round of the High Technology Cooperation Group. The U.S. also will participate for the first time in India’s Annual Technology Summit in November.

It is heartening that both sides are seeking to turn over a new page in relations, but their ability to keep the positive momentum going is already being tested. India’s position at the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade talks would have been disappointing under any circumstances, but it was especially disheartening coming from the Modi government, which has been projecting an image of India as a dynamic economy open to global trade and investment.

Moving forward, the BJP government will need to show it is genuinely committed to bolstering the private sector and demonstrating leadership in the global trade arena. Modi’s track record of making Gujarat one of India’s most investor-friendly states inspires confidence that he will prioritize reviving the economy and encouraging private-sector growth. While no one expects miracles overnight, they are looking for signs that the government is committed to a pro-reform and pro-business agenda.

Promise in the Defense Sector

The area in which the U.S.–India relationship may prosper the most is defense. The BJP’s election manifesto highlighted the need to modernize India’s armed forces and to fast-track defense purchases.

The Modi government has already demonstrated a commitment to the defense sector by raising defense spending 12 percent. The government’s commitment to raise foreign direct investment caps in the defense sector to 49 percent is also encouraging. This should provide greater incentive for U.S. defense companies to invest in India and give them a stake in helping India develop its defense industrial base.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel demonstrated during his recent visit to India that Washington is keen on building defense ties with New Delhi. He said the U.S. is willing to be patient while India considers its security needs, and he further said the U.S. would be respectful of India’s concerns regarding its desire for strategic autonomy. These were surely welcome words for Indian officials.

Secretary Hagel also talked about dozens of proposals for India to consider with regard to co-production of defense items and transfer of technology. One of these proposals includes plans to co-produce the Javelin anti-tank missile.

The U.S. Defense Secretary expressed his commitment to the U.S.–India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative. This dialogue was launched in 2012 as a way to break down barriers between the two countries’ defense bureaucracies and enhance defense trade and technology exchange.

The U.S. has signed nearly $13 billion in defense contracts with India over the past several years, including major deals for military transport aircraft and attack and heavy-lift helicopters. But there have also been setbacks in U.S.–India defense ties. India’s decision in 2011 to downselect non-U.S. companies to fill its requirement for 126 fighter aircraft was a major blow for the U.S.

Another problem has been Indian unwillingness to sign U.S. defense technology protection agreements. The U.S. has tried for several years to convince India of the importance of signing these agreements. Failure to do so prohibits the U.S. from exporting certain high technology.

India’s Foreign Policy

Regarding foreign policy, the Modi-led government is expected to pursue a more robust and assertive approach and enhance India’s influence and prestige on the global stage.

China. With China, for example, Modi is likely to pursue a multifaceted approach involving improving trade and investment ties while also building up India’s strategic and military capabilities to guard against the possibility of Chinese aggression along their disputed borders.

While Indian strategists recognize that Pakistan poses the most immediate threat to India, they increasingly view China as the more significant long-term strategic threat. Modi’s call a few months ago for China to abandon its “expansionist attitude” shows the new government is wary of Chinese territorial ambitions, especially in light of the April 2013 border incident in which Chinese troops camped for three weeks several miles inside Indian territory in the Ladakh region of Kashmir.

In recent years, China has increasingly pressured India over their disputed borders by questioning Indian sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, stepping up probing operations along different parts of their shared frontier, and building up its military infrastructure in the border areas. Last October, just before Manmohan Singh visited Beijing, the Chinese refused to issue valid visas for two women from Arunachal Pradesh who had been scheduled to compete at a world sporting event. The Chinese move scuttled the signing of a visa liberalization agreement that had been in the works.

India is responding to the Chinese moves and is seeking to reinforce its own claims in the disputed border areas by augmenting forces and constructing road and rail links along the shared frontiers. The BJP election manifesto does not mention China specifically, but it commits to “massive” infrastructure development along their disputed borders in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

The April 2013 border incident also contributed to the Indian decision to move forward with deployment of a new mountain strike corps on the Chinese border. In July 2013, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security approved the deployment of a 50,000-strong special mountain strike corps to the eastern sector. This is the first strike corps India has deployed to the Line of Actual Control in 50 years.

Indian officials were initially cautious in their response to the U.S. policy of rebalancing toward the Asia–Pacific, but any Chinese border provocations will almost certainly prompt New Delhi to become more open to the idea of a robust U.S. role in the region. The stage also is set for greater trilateral cooperation between India, Japan, and the U.S. Indeed, the three countries recently held a trilateral naval exercise in the Pacific aimed at enhancing maritime cooperation and interoperability among the three navies.

With India’s increasing reliance on energy imports and expanding trade levels, it is inevitable that India will seek to play a more active role in the Asia–Pacific. U.S. officials have given a nod to the potential for Indian power projection and frequently refer to India as a “net provider of security.”

Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi sought to create a positive dynamic in relations with Islamabad by inviting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony, an unprecedented gesture in the subcontinent. The two countries’ foreign secretaries are set to meet on August 25 in Islamabad for the first time in over 18 months.

Still, a major terrorist attack inside India with links to Pakistan could quickly reverse the positive momentum in Indo–Pakistani ties. Having criticized Prime Minister Singh for being too soft on Pakistan, Modi would be under pressure to react strongly in the face of a terrorist provocation.

Moreover, there is growing concern about the impact on Indo–Pakistani relations of the international troop drawdown in Afghanistan and whether the Kashmir conflict could reignite. Washington and New Delhi must collaborate closely on Afghanistan and consider more carefully how to work together to prevent a Taliban resurgence.

Nuclear Issues

The nuclear liability issue has remained a stumbling block in Indo–U.S. relations over the past four years. While in opposition, the BJP opposed the nuclear deal and pushed for liability legislation that complicated U.S. companies’ ability to invest in civil nuclear projects in India.

Now that the BJP is in power, the U.S. must make a fresh push to resolve the liability issue to help create a level playing field for foreign investors considering investing in India’s civil nuclear sector. Without U.S. leadership on the India civil nuclear deal six years ago at the Nuclear Supplier’s Group, India would never have gained access to international civilian nuclear fuel and technology.

In this context, Washington should also continue to press for India’s membership in the major multilateral nonproliferation groupings such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.


India will have to manage a balancing act as it seeks to expand economic opportunity for all its citizens while projecting strength outside its borders and managing border tensions with Pakistan on one side and China on the other. The BJP’s assumption of power offers an opportunity to reinvigorate U.S.–India ties and work together for mutual benefit on areas such as defense, security, trade, and counterterrorism cooperation.

Many argue that the Obama Administration will be too distracted with other foreign policy challenges to focus on its relationship with India, but the reality is that our two countries need each other to cope with these global challenges, especially when it comes to international terrorism and maintaining a stable balance of power in the Asia–Pacific.

The quality of the Indo–U.S. relationship matters more than the quantity of dialogues. Both sides should seek to deepen their interactions and cooperation in a purposeful manner while learning to manage day-to-day irritants that almost certainly will arise.

—Lisa Curtis is a Senior Research Fellow in the Asian Studies Center, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

This lecture was delivered at the National Council of Asian Indian Associations Indian Independence Day Banquet on August 16, 2014. 

About the Author

Lisa Curtis

Senior Research Fellow

Read More

Request an interview

Request an Interview with A Heritage Expert

Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.

Heritage’s daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday–straight from Heritage experts.

The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.

More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage’s Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.

Rush Limbaugh says “The Heritage Foundation’s Morning Bell is just terrific!”

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it’s “a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track.”

Sign up to start your free subscription today!

About The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.

Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More

Article source: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/09/an-opportunity-to-reenergize-usindia-relations-lisa-curtis

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Market Snap: At the New York close: SP 500 0.07% at 1984.13. DJIA up 0.3% at 17031.14. Nasdaq Comp down 1.1% at 4518.90. Treasury yields down; 10-year at 2.589%. Nymex crude oil up 0.7% at $92.92. Gold up 0.3% at $1,233.60/ounce.

Click here to receive this morning newsletter via email

How We Got Here: Technology and small-company stocks slid Monday, as investors turned defensive ahead of this week’s decision by the Federal Reserve on interest rates.

Adding to the cautious tone was weak economic news out of China, jitters about the Scottish independence vote and the closely watched initial public offering from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which could be the world’s largest initial public offering.

But the reality is that Monday and Tuesday are little more than a prelude to this week’s big events. For the markets, as always, what will matter won’t necessarily be what happens – what the Fed does with its policy, how the Scots vote – but whether or not what happens is what the market thinks will happen. It’s all about expectations.

Coming Up: The first event on tap for Asian investors Tuesday is the release of minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia’s last rate-setting meeting. Some economists think it was a mistake that the RBA stood pat on rates in September, arguing that the RBA should be more aggressively confronting the weakness in the economy and high unemployment.

Also coming Tuesday are data on August foreign direct investment in China, which was previously down 16.95% on year. July’s sharp drop took this indicator to its lowest level in two years, a sign of how foreign investors are souring on China. There’s not much that’s happened since then to suggest that will change, but Chinese official statistics can be pretty volatile, so a rebound can’t be ruled out.

What You Missed Overnight

Alibaba Set to Raise IPO Price Range Alibaba, which is in the middle of marketing what could be the world’s largest initial public offering, now thinks it could do a little better. The Chinese e-commerce firm plans to raise the deal’s price range to $66 to $68 per share, up from the current $60 to $66 a share, a person familiar with the deal said.

Venture Capitalist Sounds Alarm on Startup Investing Silicon Valley is a risk-driven place. But over the past year, it may have taken on more than it can handle, according to prominent venture capitalist Bill Gurley.

AB InBev Explores Financing to Buy SABMiller Anheuser-Busch InBev is talking to banks about financing a potential megadeal, perhaps reaching £75 billion ($122 billion), to buy global beer rival SABMiller, according to a person familiar with the matter.

U.S. Stocks Hit by Drop in Tech Technology and small-company stocks slid Monday, as investors turned defensive ahead of this week’s decision by the Federal Reserve on interest rates.

From The Wall Street Journal Asia

Beijing in Bind Over Slowdown The world’s second-largest economy is faring worse than previously thought, with government stimulus measures proving too short-lived to counter China’s sharp real-estate downturn or to prop up flagging factory output.

Alibaba IPO Is a Bonanza for Select Firms The initial public offering of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. this week will be a windfall for a group of previously undisclosed investors who snapped up preferred shares in the Chinese e-commerce company that were sold in the run-up to its public debut.

TPG Plans Exit From Australia’s Alinta Energy U.S. private-equity firm TPG Capital is looking to cash out of one of its largest Asian-Pacific investments—Australian power company Alinta Energy—at a time of uncertain demand for such assets in the country.

Great Barrier Reef Plan Isn’t Enough, Conservationists Say Australia released a 35-year plan to save the Great Barrier Reef on Monday as it attempts to stave off threats by the United Nations to add one of the country’s top tourist attractions to its list of at-risk World Heritage sites.

From MoneyBeat

Investors Getting Cautious Ahead of Alibaba IPO Alibaba Group Holding Inc. appears likely to raise the price range of its highly anticipated initial public offering, a development that is making some investors nervous about how the stock will trade as a newly minted public company, according to a new survey.

Deal Making Has Bankers Busy on a Manic Merger Monday A burst of frenetic deal making has kept investors on their toes on both sides of the Atlantic Monday. Companies from a wide variety of sectors announced more than $11 billion in acquisitions, while others acknowledged they’ve got their check books at the ready or detailed previously-announced mergers.

Four ‘Sobering Factors’ About Tesla’s Rally Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned about his company’s lofty stock price, saying the shares had gotten “kind of high.” On Monday, Morgan Stanley – one of Wall Street’s biggest bulls on the electric-car maker – echoed Mr. Musk’s cautious take.

Five Questions About the ECB’s Asset Buying The European Central Bank said on Sept. 4 that it will buy asset backed securities to increase its balance sheet, to steer more money into the economy and to spur private-sector lending. Here are five questions about the program.

Article source: http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/09/15/morning-moneybeat-asia-u-s-stocks-lining-up-for-big-week/

Log in to manage your products and services from The New York Times and the International New York Times.

Don’t have an account yet?
Create an account »

Subscribed through iTunes and need an NYTimes.com account?
Learn more »

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/16/world/asia/wary-of-un-action-australia-unveils-plan-to-aid-great-barrier-reef.html

Korea will share its cultural heritage management technology with its Asian neighbors. The ‘International Course for Cultural Heritage Management’ is being hosted by the Training Center for Traditional Culture and is open to 14 participating Asian countries.

The invitational training program will be held from August 24 to 31. The Training Center for Traditional Culture has been hosting the program since 2009 as part of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) project of the Cultural Heritage Administration.

The participants of this year’s program comprise 17 people from 14 countries, including Myanmar, Laos, Bangladesh, East Timor, Nepal and Cambodia. They were chosen from both the Priority Countries of Korea’s ODA, and existing participating countries.

Participants of the International Course for Cultural Heritage Management visit an education center that teaches traditional wooden craft skills. (photo courtesy of the Training Center for Traditional Culture)

Participants in the International Course for Cultural Heritage Management listen to a lecture on Korean language. (photo courtesy of the Training Center for Traditional Culture)

The participants will learn about Korea’s culture and cultural heritage through the program. The course involves lectures on the preservation and management of world heritage as well as on Korea’s wooden architecture, field trips to Changdeokgung Palace and Yangdong Folk Village in Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province), and experiences of Korea’s court cuisine.

The Training Center for Traditional Culture said it will improve the annual training program in the future so that Asian countries can share Korea’s accumulated knowledge and experience in cultural heritage preservation and management. The center also said it will do its best to offer countries a range of in-depth educational opportunities.

By Yoon Sojung | Korea.net

Article source: http://theinsidekorea.com/2014/08/korea-asia-share-cultural-heritage-management-knowhow/

Their demographic footprint in Vermont is pretty small, but in just three years, they’ve made a pretty big splash.

Turkish Americans have fed and entertained the governor and other high officials at celebratory events. They’ve bestowed awards on local luminaries. They’ve sponsored subsidized tours of Turkey for Vermont legislators. And they’ve opened a spacious office in Burlington to serve as a gathering place both for members of their own community and as a hub for their efforts at cultural and educational outreach.

The Turkish Cultural Center Vermont, a nonprofit organization, offers Turkish language classes and serves as a platform for promoting both Turkish culture and cross-cultural understanding. As a focal point for one of the many ethnic and linguistic groups that have found their way to Vermont, it has achieved noteworthy visibility.

That’s partly because its professed embrace of diversity and tolerance finds a receptive audience in Vermont. Perhaps it’s only natural that the high profile of Turkish Americans’ new organization belies their relatively low numbers.

Vermont’s center is not unique, however. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire also have Turkish cultural centers, and they all have websites designed with the same template and much of the same verbiage.

“We the Turkish Americans believe that promoting respect and mutual understanding among all cultures and faiths is one of the critical means to create a harmonious environment,” reads the mission statement for Vermont, and for the other states.

A movement

The centers in New England, and in many other states around the country, were set up with the assistance of the Council of Turkic American Associations, part of the Turkic American Alliance. The Alliance seeks to help Turkic Americans both preserve their own culture and integrate into American society. “Turkic” refers to people who speak languages in Turkish language family, ethnic groups in Turkey and scattered across eastern Europe and central Asia.

The council and the participants in the many of the centers are supporters of the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen is a visionary Turkish leader, a preacher and educational activist who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1998 and who has legions of adherents in Turkey and elsewhere. The Gülen website characterizes the movement as non-political and “distinguished for its support of democracy, its openness to globalization, its progressiveness in integrating tradition with modernity, and its humanistic outlook.” The Gülen movement fell out of favor over the last couple of years with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in part as a result of a corruption scandal.

Adem G. Aydin, one of the founders of the Turkish Cultural Center Vermont, said he read Gülen’s works when he was a student in Turkey and was inspired by Gülen’s notion of “embracing differences” and ensuring that “differences have an opportunity to survive.” These are principles he hopes the center can embody and promote.

“From time to time, Turkish Cultural Centers organize events and have collaboration with the movement-affiliated institutions,” wrote another of the Vermont center’s co-founders, Eyup Sener, in an email. “So we can say there is a relation with the Gülen Movement. While there is no formal relationship with Fethullah Gülen himself, a large number of our members are indeed supportive of Fethullah Gülen’s democratic principles of secularism, equal opportunity and free enterprise.”

Aydin went to college in Turkey, then attended graduate school in Syracuse, where there was a Turkish cultural center. After he earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering, he moved to Vermont to take a job with IBM and began thinking of setting up a center here. Vermont was one of the few states without one.

Vermont start-up

Founded in 2011, the Vermont center took a while to get going, but its organizers drew on the experiences in other states.

On April 18, 2012, the center sponsored its first Turkish Cultural Day at the Vermont Statehouse, with a reception attended by, among many others, Gov. Peter Shumlin, House Speaker Shap Smith and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. The day before, the center had presented Shumlin with a check for $5,000 for Tropical Storm Irene aid from the Hizmet Relief Foundation. “Hizmet” is a Turkish name for the Gülen movement.

Similar statehouse events have been held in other states over the last eight years, Sener said. The first was in Albany, N.Y.

“A Turkish Cultural Day’s main mission is to strengthen ties between America and Turkey and celebrate the rich heritage of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” he said.

The Vermont center’s website has a report, and a photo gallery, of an eight-day tour of Turkey in July 2012 by about a dozen Vermont legislators. Legislators paid their own airfare and some other transportation expenses. Tuskon, a Turkish business confederation, paid for accommodations, according to Aydin. Last year, the center facilitated a similar trip to Turkey and to Azerbaijan, where the official language, Azeri, is Turkic.

Rep. Jean O’Sullivan, D-Burlington, went on that first tour, she said, because she saw Turkey as a stable Middle Eastern country that serves as “an honest broker” between the West and the Islamic world. She recognized the tour sponsors were affiliated with the Gülen Movement, which impressed her with its emphasis on education and science and with its message of tolerance — qualities she sees playing out in the Turkish Cultural Center Vermont.

“Any Islamic institution that works on a solid principle of inclusion and education is a net benefit to the community,” she said.

“It was an extremely interesting trip,” said Rep. Michael Yantachka, D-Charlotte, another member of that first tour group. (He has since joined the center’s board of advisors, but says he hasn’t given much advice.) Interspersed with sightseeing were meetings with government officials, educators and business people. The trip was all about building awareness, Yatachka said.

Neither Turkey nor Turkish Americans, per se, have any issues pending at the Vermont Legislature, nor does the Vermont center have a lobbyist. Gülen-inspired charter schools have been set up in some states, notably Texas, but Aydin said he knows of no plans for any in Vermont.

Neither O’Sullivan nor Yantachka listed the travel subsidy in their campaign-finance reports, the main venue for legislators to acknowledge gifts.

“I didn’t consider that it had anything to do with my campaign,” Yantachka said. “They weren’t trying to influence me on anything.”

The trip cost him about $1,600, Yantachka said, roughly half of the overall expense.

In effect, he said, it was “a cheap vacation.”

O’Sullivan noted that similar tours have been sponsored in other states. Tours have also been organized for educators and media people. Vermont journalists have received invitations, but so far, there have been no takers.

As for the Vermont-Turkey economic relationship, there’s plenty of room to grow. According to the Agency of Commerce and Economic Development, Vermont’s exports to Turkey in 2013 amounted to about $1.9 million (a tiny fraction of the $4 billion to all countries). Imports from Turkey tally about $5.7 million (total global imports: $4.9 billion).

Nearly $3 million of those Turkish imports fell in the category “arms and ammunition,” up from close to zero three years before. Calls to Vermont gun dealers with import licenses didn’t clarify who’s importing what in the way of firearms.

O’Sullivan characterized the Turkish economy as “mature,” and said Vermont might do well to explore investment prospects under the EB-5 program that provides investors with green cards. She noted that New Hampshire has done more to cultivate economic ties with Turkey, that states’s 12th largest trading partner.

In June, Turkish Cultural Center New Hampshire co-sponsored a week-long trade mission to Turkey led by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

By the numbers

The size of the Turkic American population in Vermont is an open question.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates the number of people in Vermont who were born in Turkey at 65. (The estimate covers the years 2008-12.) The estimate for those in Vermont who report their “first ancestry” as Turkish: 182.

Of the more than 6,700 refugees who have been resettled in Vermont since 1989, fewer than 300 are believed to have been Turkish speakers. In the middle years of the last decade (2000-2010), Vermont received 34 refugees from Azerbaijan 55 from Uzbekistan, and 99 from Russia. Many were categorized as Meskhetian Turks, ethnic Turks who were forcibly dispersed through central Asia during the Stalin era. Since their arrival in Vermont, most have moved to other states, according to the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.

Sener, a co-founder of the Vermont center, said he researched the Turkic population of New England — including Turks, Azeri, Kazkh, Uzek, Turkmen, Meskhetian Turks, and so on — and came up with a figure of “around 3,000.”

Co-founder Aydin said the Turkish Cultural Center Vermont has about 100 members. It was their input that led to the selection of the award winners at the first Friendship Dinner, held in November at the Sheraton Hotel Conference Center. Shumlin came away with the leadership award, Attorney General Bill Sorrell with the community service award, and Free Press executive editor Michael Townsend with the “media award.”

Six months later, Shumlin and Sorrell were among those who showed up to cut the ribbon for the center’s new office, on the 5th floor of 125 College St.

Shumlin said then he hoped the center would promote cultural understanding and help the state grow jobs and exports.

“I know that it will serve us well in the future,” he said in May.

Among the center’s members is Cengiz Akgul, who said he came to Vermont for a job as a software engineer. He said he sees the center as “a place for our community members to gather to keep alive our heritage and introduce our culture” to others.

Akgul said his children have taken weekend language classes and he has participated in events.

On a recent morning, Aydin opened the office to welcome a visitor. Aydin offered tea and Turkish delights. The fifth-floor quarters also feature a lounge, a classroom and a larger room that can seat up to 50.

Aydin said members’ contributions support the organization, which has monthly budget capped at $2,500. That covers rent, utilities and all other expenses, he said. Rental fees from private parties and fees for Turkish language classes bring in a little income, he said. Food for public events is typically donated.

The center, which has no paid employees and is open only by appointment, remains something of a work in progress. Aydin envisions more outreach programs, including to Burlington’s sizable Bosnian community. The center has no political or religious agenda, he said, adding that members vary in their political views and their religious practices.

The center is meant to be a place for the Turkic community, he said, but also a place that will help Turkic people become integrated in Vermont.

“We don’t want to be a closed community,” he said.

Contact Tim Johnson at 660-1808 or tjohnson@burlingtonfreepress.com

Article source: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/0001/01/01/rising-profile-turkish-cultural-center-vermont/15531989/