Lawmakers reiterate US and India are natural allies

Surekha Vijh-

Seven US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mingled with members of the Indian American community at the Russel Building on Capitol Hill, promising strong congressional support for bilateral ties with India while congratulating the many contributions of Indian Americans to society.

The event was hosted by the US-India Friendship Council (USIFC), chairman, Swadesh Chatterjee; Dr Bharat Barai, recipient of the 2017 Pravasi Bharatiya Samaan award, Raymond Vickery and Armeane Choksi, among others. They also welcomed Jason Isaacson of the American Jewish Committee for promoting strong ties between India and Israel.

The March 27 program began with a short speech by Susan Kay Oliver DelBene, the Democratic representative from the 1st Congressional district of Washington, calling the US India as natural allies.

Congressman Don Bacon, a Republican representative from the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska, said the US India were doing many successful defense-exercises together and were partners in many other areas.

“Countries that embrace freedom and human rights have to work together, “Bacon said, adding, “We have common worries … India is the number one target of terrorists.”

Bacon’s district makes up the core of the Omaha metropolitan area.

“In Omaha, we have approximately 10,000 Indian Americans and they do so much for our local area,” he said. “Our communities are blessed by the Indian Americans who immigrated here.”

Representative Sanford Bishop, a Democrat from the 2nd Congressional District of Georgia, said the relationship between India and the United States “is one that is very, very good and I hope we can work together to make it even better.”

The Democrat said he has a number of Indian American friends from all walks of life. “The diaspora is so strong and so powerful in business and in our personal relationships,” he said.

Sen Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was a Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2016, also congratulated the Indian American community.

“We are connected because the Indian American community in the US and in Virginia is so very strong,” he said.

Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat from the 30th Congressional District of California and the chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the gathering that he has served in Congress for 22 years and “been a proponent of the US-India alliance.”

Sherman is the new Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, popularly called the House India Caucus.

“Given the challenges that India faces both to the north (China) and to the west (Pakistan), it is not surprising that India has decided to acquire our most advanced weaponry and has been only one of the non-NATO countries to buy the most advanced weaponry from the United States,” he said.

Paying homage to “the 40 Indian personnel killed in an act of terrorism just a month ago,” Sherman said, “India and the US share so many things. Unfortunately, we share being the victims of international terror.”

Sherman said he was very proud the Indian American community.

“This is the group in the US, of all the ethnic groups, with the highest income and the highest level of education,” he said.

The event was also supported by the Indian embassy in Washington DC, Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla and other senior officials participated.

Shringla told the audience that many people he has met, whether they were in the administration. Congress, media or academia, all want a strong India-US relationship.

Expressing his happiness at the bipartisan support for it, he said that besides the fact that India today was one of the fastest-growing, major emerging economies in the world, “accounting for 17 percent of GDP growth all over the world… we have such a vibrant and dynamic Indian-American community represented in this country.”

He added that the “support of this community was vital to us in forging a much stronger relationship with the US.”

The Indian envoy noted that the US was India’s largest trading partner.  “India is buying much more from the US” now, than in previous years. President Trump announced plans to end special trade treatment for India.

The ambassador said India-US ties were “based on mutually beneficial trade and economic relations underpinned by the strong community that we have here.”

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat representing the 8th Congressional District of Illinois and one of four Indian American lawmakers serving in the House, said there was no looking back as for as the US-India relations were concerned.

Krishnamoorthi, who sits on the House Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees, stressed the “importance of alliances with friendly nations such as India.

He said, “India is vital for our security,” before adding that commercial and people-to-people ties help to sustain both the world’s oldest (US) and the largest (India) democracies.

Asked about more Indian Americans running for office, Krishnamoorthi said, “If you dream it, you can do it.”

Chatterjee later recognized Carl “Ray” Russell, State House Representative for the 93rd District of North Carolina.

Others who spoke included Republican lawmaker Steve Chabot, a Republican representative from Ohio’s 1’s Congressional district; Congressman Joe Morelle, a Democrat who represents New York’s 25th Congressional District; and Tom Reed II, a Democratic representative for New York’s 23rd Congressional district

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