By Ritu Jha (reporting from Washington, DC)-
Four hundred and twenty buses packed with members of the Indian diaspora drove to Washington DC from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, Ohio and New York. Two Chartered planes carried people to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s welcome event at the White House on June 22 and the Indian diaspora event at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on June 23.
The huge audience chanted Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai (Everything is possible with Modi), Vande Mantram, Modi, Modi at the mega last event of Modi’s four-day US visit.
Dr. Bharat Barai[Photo:2nd from left] after the Modi event told indica, “Our dream is to get him in Chicago with 40,000 people, so this was a mini dream and it was successful.”
Pavan Madhu, of the Overseas Friends of BJP USA told indica: “Work started 40 days ago. We worked with the local authorities and gave discounted rates for Modi’s attendees.”
Prakash Patel, who represents BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in Washington DC told indica, “Over 40 BAPS members volunteered for this[dispora] event, and Modi coming to Washington DC this time is different compared to 2021 visit. I see Modi getting the biggest appreciation ever…. he is the right person for India and he is doing all right things for India, so that India can be in a better position.”
While addressing the diaspora, Modi said that the US President has always tried to take the India-US partnership to another level. “I want to thank you all for showing such a beautiful image of ‘Ek Bharat, Sreshth Bharat’, in America. The amount of love I am getting in the US is wonderful, all the credit goes to the people of this country. President Biden and I had a lot of discussions in the last 3 days. I can say that he is an experienced politician. He has always tried to take the India-US partnership to another level,” said Modi.
Foundation for India & Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) Policy Director Khanderao Kand told indica, “One of the most significant outcomes of the Modi visit is technology collaboration and tech transfers under ICET. This is not only important for the development of India but also for the US to balance China’s dominance on technology and global supply chain as well as reduce India’s dependence on Russia” It was also heartening to see the announcement on in-state stamping of H-1B immigration. FIIDS has been working on the issue.
Peter Rivera, CEO and founder of RevelNation Enterprises Inc which has operations in India, attended the event along with the president of the global education IT company, Gary Cudak. Rivera told indica, “We are humbled and honored to hear Modi who paved the way to have more collaboration to be done between India and USA and to create not just e-commerce but commerce.”
Washington DC-based Dr. Dipak Shah said Modi is amazing and represents “True India, Indian culture, and Indian traditions.”
Manisha Shah, based in the Bay Area, Calif., was pleased to have a photo with Modi told indica she personally told him, “May my life be with you, so you can do all the good work for the country.” Adding on she said, “I am not a very emotional person but whenever I think of him, I just feel like crying because it has been a century since we had the right leader for my country.”
Grace Collins represents the Naga people in the Naga American Council. Nagaland is bound by the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh to the northeast, Manipur to the south, Assam to the west, and northwest, and by the country of Myanmar (Burma) to the east.
Collins told indica,“My jurisdiction is the United States, UN and allied forces. I’ve been helping the Naga since 1997, officially 2003, with the Department of Justice. Most Nagas have never felt they are a part of India. Even Modi knows. They have held meetings regularly to work on ceasefire agreements, peace talks, and they have a unique history. The Indian government recognizes its unique history. The rioting in Manipur is a cause for concern as the Nagas are caught in the middle of the civil war. The Nagas have shown incredible restraint and peace, and they’re not playing politics between this group or that. They just want peace.”
Sanjay Kaul, Boston, is originally from Kashmir. He has been in the US since 1991 told indica, “It’s been a long time in the US and we have seen many prime ministers come here – Atar Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, and now Modi. Modi is the most gracious, dynamic, and do-it guy. I think he is the pride of India and we have all our hopes on him to take us to the next level, take the country to the next level, and bring the hopes of the people of India to a higher plane.”
Kaul has pinned his hopes on Modi for returning to Kashmir. “Our biggest hope is that he will bring the Kashmiri Hindus back to Kashmir. My wife and I visited Kashmir in March this year, our home has been occupied and has become a commercial center. Our soul is there, my forefathers were there. Our culture, our heritage, and we wish to connect with that. It’s always saddening for us to see that the properties have been taken over and we are only welcome as tourists. We have been petitioning the Government of India ever since we left home. We were forced from there. A genocide was inflicted on us. So we have been fighting for our cause, for our rights. And hopefully, something good will come in the long run. Modi is working on it, his government is working on it. But I don’t think they have a hold on the situation yet. Because the terrorists can still strike at will. And they can do whatever they want at whichever place they want. Modi’s our only hope.”
In a big relief to Indian professionals, US President Joe Biden announced that Indian professionals can renew their work visas without traveling abroad. “America’s new consulates will be opened in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. It has now been decided that the H-1B visa renewal can be done in the US itself,” Modi said while addressing the Indian diaspora at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC.
The move is part of a people-to-people initiative and comes after a bilateral meeting between Modi and US President Joe Biden. The United States authorities announced that they will introduce ‘in-country’ renewable H-1B visas as part of the people-to-people initiative to smoothen the process of H-1B visa renewal for several Indians who are working in the US on H-1B visas. India is going to open a new consulate in Seattle this year. Apart from this, Indian consulates will be opened in 2 more cities in America.
“Together we are not just forming policies and agreements, we are shaping lives, dreams, and destinies,” said Modi. This comes a day after the two countries welcomed an announcement by the US Department of State that it would launch a pilot program to adjudicate domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas later this year.
“The leaders welcomed an announcement by the U.S. Department of State that it would launch a pilot to adjudicate domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas later this year, including for Indian nationals, with the intent to implement this for an expanded pool of H1B and L visa holders in 2024 and eventually broadening the program to include other eligible categories,” the India-US joint statement said.
The leaders affirmed that the movement of professional and skilled workers, students, investors and business travelers between the countries contributes immensely to enhancing bilateral economic and technological partnership.
While acknowledging the important steps taken to augment the processing of visa applications, The leaders noted in the joint statement, “the pressing need to further expedite this process”.
The leaders also directed officials to identify additional mechanisms to facilitate travel for business, tourism, and professional and technical exchanges between the two countries.
Award-winning international singer Mary Millben performed the National Anthem of India at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC.
Overwhelmed with the presence of the Indian community, Modi said, “In a way, you have charted out the full map of India in this hall. I can see people from all corners of India here. It seems that a mini-India has turned up.”
“In these 3 days, a new and glorious journey of India and the US relations has begun. This new journey is of our convergence on global strategic issues, of our cooperation for Make in India Make for the World. Be it technology transfer and manufacturing cooperation or increasing coordination in the industrial supply chain, both nations are taking strong steps toward a better future. The decision of General Electric Company to manufacture fighter planes in India will prove to be a milestone for India’s defense sector,” said Modi. The defense-industrial cooperation roadmap is expected to deepen the partnership between the two nations.
During Modi’s visit, large corporates like Micron, Google, and Applied Materials announced investment plans for India. Micron’s $2.5 billion investment in the semiconductor sector is going to link India to the world semiconductor chain.
The $400 million investment for semiconductor equipment in India by Applied Materials will help build a semiconductor product ecosystem in India. Google is also going to open its Global Fintech Center in India. Boeing has also announced $100 billion investment in India. The decision to make fighter planes will prove to be a milestone for India’s defense sector. America will also share ‘Mutual Trust’ with this agreement,” said Modi.