Indian-American Representative Ami Bera has been selected to lead an important Congressional panel dealing with Asia and with non-proliferation.
House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel announced his appointment as chair of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Non-Proliferation in a statement on Friday, while calling Bera one of the “most capable members”.
Bera, a Democrat, said: “I will work to ensure that the US is utilizing all of our political, military, cultural, and economic tools to support our interests, and maintain and enhance US commitments in Asia and the Pacific.”
He succeeds Brad Sherman, who will now head the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets.
Bera also serves as the Vice Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Bera formerly headed the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Foreign Affairs Committee and will be a member of its Europe, Eurasia, Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
A medical doctor, Bera has represented a California constituency that covers parts of the state capital Sacramento for four terms.
House committees and subcommittees play an important role serving as the first stop in the legislative process and in examining matters relating to their areas with view to shaping US policies.
The Asia subcommittee held a hearing in October on Kashmir that was loaded with critics of India and was presided over by Sherman.
In one of his last acts as the panel’s head, Sherman held a “classified briefing” on Kashmir by top State Department and intelligence officials last week.
Outlining his plans for the subcommittee, Bera said: “The subcommittee will explore how effectively those tools are being used, including how to strengthen our allies and partners within the region.
“We need to remember that when we engage with the nations of Asia and the Pacific, our values and interests move hand-in-hand; countries which respect human rights and create space for civil and nongovernmental actors are those that prosper and guarantee long-term stability.”
Bera had at the October hearing on Kashmir said: “These are internal issues that we certainly, want resolved.”
India is the world’s largest democracy, he said, adding that “the core foundational basis of a democracy is protection of minority rights… I understand democracy is complicated.”
He urged the Indian government to allow journalists into the Union Territory while reacting to the ban only on non-Indian journalists visiting it.