Presidential candidiate Tulsi Gabbard connects with the community in Fremont

Ritu Jha-

 

“With Pakistan, of course, the issue of terrorism is one that has existed for too long.”

That was Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii congresswoman and presidential candidate, telling indica about her views on the risk of war between India and Pakistan after an attack by a local terrorist backed by a Pakistan-based group that claimed 40 lives in Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gabbard was speaking at an event hosted March 15 by Fremont Vice Mayor Dr. Raj Salwan, and which drew hundreds of people, most of them Indian Americans from the Bay Area.

Gabbard, a Hindu American Democratic Congresswoman who represents Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, has otherwise been an advocate for peace and ending wasteful regime-change war policies, and ending end the new Cold War and the nuclear arms race.

“I urge the Pakistani government to do something to root out terrorist elements within their country and stop providing any safe haven for them, ” Gabbard said.

About the recent Indo-Pakistan conflict, she said, “I think we have to look at the bigger issue here. When you have two nuclear-armed countries there is a lot at risk if the tension … continues to rise. So, for both India and Pakistan, it’s in the interest of the region and the world to deescalate the tensions.”

Speaking of employment authorization for those on the H4 visa (people who are dependents of those with H-1B visas and a matter of concern to many of the 40,000 Indian Americans in Fremont), she said, “I am not sure which one that is. We have been dealing with the H-1B visa concerns and that is an issue we are continuing to work forward in a bipartisan way in Congress.”

Gabbard said of another area of worry for immigrants, the Green Card backlog: “There is no question that we need comprehensive immigration reform in this country. The system is broken and this backlog is causing a lot of hardship among families. As a result, this is something that needs to be addressed as part of immigration reform.”

In her speech, the Congresswoman shared her experience serving in the Army National Guard, being deployed twice to the Middle East, and serving in Congress for more than six years on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees.

In her speech, Gabbard said, “Almost 15 years ago I raised my hand and promised to serve this country and to put service above self. I am running for president to bring those values found in the heart of every service members.” She said she put the values of service above self and stood by principles of integrity, character, honesty, and respect.

“We deserve our White House to be a beacon of light, to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for every single person in this country – and for the world to see.”

Shifting topics, Gabbard said that even if the United States alone did everything possible in next 10 years, it still could not solve the problem of climate change; it required engagement and a cooperative relationship with other countries since they, too, are threatened.

“This is something huge, and my personal passion and priority. I will re-enter the Paris accord as president,” said Gabbard, describing the Paris accord as a starting point, not an end.

An attendee asked, “Why should I vote for you rather than my own senator [Kamala Harris, another presidential candidate].”

Gabbard replied, “The most important job the president has is to be commander-in-chief. She said her experiences in combat, and serving on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, made her personally aware of the cost of war and who pays the price.

Not only our service members and veteran it every single, American who pays the price of these war and having the courage to step on to that job on day one and make changes to our foreign policy….to build strong relations with other countries that ends our wasteful regime change foreign policies and work to end cold war. Pushing us closer to the possible nuclear catastrophe in history. Because of these experiences, I am most qualified to serve as commander- in- chief.”

Asked why veterans were not receiving better treatment, Gabbard agreed, saying that many people in Washington visited troops war zones, shook hands with them, took pictures, and returned home, only to later say they lack the money to ensure the veterans can consult a mental health specialist or get a job.

“It is hard for me to find words how much angry it makes me,” she said. “On Veteran’s Day there is so much lip-service paid … but it is not followed through with action. The very next day they send troops to fight in battles that don’t help the people in this country. That undermines our national security. The entire system needs to change.”

Mihir Meghani, a Gabbard supporter, said she has many firsts – she was the first Hindu American to get elected, the first Hindu American to run for president, and the first American Samoan in Congress. He said she represented the best of what “we stand for as a community our heritage from India.”

“She is down-to-earth and honest and tied to bipartisan policymaking. She has a vision of bringing money back to our national economy and not wasting it on regime change,” he said.

Dr Salwan said he had good reason to host Gabbard.

“Basically, I really like her anti-war stand – and she is an Iraq war veteran,” he said. “She is someone who understands firsthand the tragedy of war and how it affects our veterans,” He added that he agreed that investment was necessary in infrastructure.

“I am all in for Tulsi,” he concluded.

Anu Natarajan, former vice mayor of Fremont, told indica, “I am thrilled to see that so many strong, bold women are running. This is so early in the process and there are so many good candidates. But I think the more voices the better it is for the democratic system. At the end of the day it’s about making sure we beat Trump.”

Vinita Verma, an attendee who had asked Gabbard about the need for better treatment for veterans, later argued why she preferred Gabbard to Harris.

“Kamala Harris is not connected,” Verma said. “She is more Republican than Democrat and changes positions very quickly – on the death penalty, for example. She has to make up her mind. She should visit the community like Gabbard does if she needs our support.”

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