Congressman Shri Thanedar: Time for India to strongly commit to US as ally

Ritu Jha–

Indian American Congressman Shri Thanedar believes it is time for India to make a strong commitment to the United States.

“I would like to see India as one of its (America’s) strongest allies. And I am going to meet (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi later this month and the thing that I am going to stress with him is that this non-alignment policy needs to be gotten rid of. We need to really focus on a strong, trusting relationship with US. That will be good for the people of India and the US,” Thanedar told indica in an exclusive interview.

Congressman Thanedar represents Michigan’s 13th District, and is popular among the Indian American community for his humility and approachable nature. He was in the San Francisco Bay Area recently, and said he was pleased that Modi will be President Joe Biden’s state guest. Congressman Thanedar is scheduled to attend the state dinner.

Biden will host Modi at a state dinner on June 22. While Modi has visited the US multiple times during his tenure, none of them was categorized as a state visit, the highest-ranked visit according to diplomatic protocol. The last state visit to the US by an Indian PM was that of Manmohan Singh in November 2009.

Thanedar said he wishes to see a better relationship between the two biggest democracies of the world. “It is a shame that we aren’t as friendly. I want the US and India to be the strongest allies. A lot of times India fluctuated between friendship with Russia and US. That has not worked well for either of us. I think India needs to make a commitment to a long-standing relationship.”

Thanedar said, “India was trying to be neutral between the two superpowers (the US and the USSR). Now, the US is the only superpower. Russia has shown it has no respect for democracy, and attacked a sovereign nation like Ukraine. India being the largest democracy in the world cannot really work with a dictator like Putin, who has no regard for people or for the independence of a sovereign country. India has to open its eyes to what Russia really is.”

One of the key points discussed of late is India’s potential membership of NATO Plus. “I think the US and India can be strong allies against China. There is so much in common and it only makes sense for us to be together and be friends and develop this relationship,” Thanedar said. He said he believes a strong economic collaboration will help the US maintain its global competitiveness. In terms of the
exchange of technology, and knowledge between educational institutions, there is a lot that can be done. But all that can happen only on the foundation of a strong relationship.”

About US-India free trade agreement, Thanedar said that the US is negotiating an Asian Trade Pact. “That will cover 14 countries and 40% of Asia’s trade. It will be an important trade agreement, and India is one of them. The issue is treating workers fairly. The US has high standards in terms of workers’ salaries, and paying living wages. We need to ensure that workers are not exploited outside of the US. Workers’ rights need to be protected worldwide, including their ability to work in a safe environment and get fair pay, and living wages. At the same time, the US has high standards on environmental issues. The climate crisis is real. I want to make sure the countries we are partnering on this trade deal also have respect for the environment.”

On defense, he said: “Once we have a trusting, friendlier relationship, a lot can happen in terms of defense, cultural exchanges, education, and other collaboration. But all of it leads us to start with a trusting relationship between the two countries.”

On the hot button issue of immigration, Thanedar spoke about setting up more legal processes to help immigrants that are affected due to current laws. “Migration of Indians into the United States is a much smaller number than we see from these South American countries. The US is compassionate about people coming in. Many of the people who migrate face like poverty, national calamity, or political issues. Being an American is being compassionate, kind, considerate, and helping those who are suffering. So, we should continue.”

Thanedar said President Biden has set up a parole program that allows 30,000 people to cross the border. “We need to create more legal pathways for immigrants to come to the US. That way, they don’t have to go through the cartels and they don’t have to use unfair practices and get exploited. We should set up legal processes for people to come, for temporary workers to come to the United States because we need temporary workers.”

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