Indian diaspora, US Congress played ‘pioneering role’ in boosting bilateral ties: Amb. Sandhu

Washington: The Indian diaspora and the US Congress have played a “pioneering role” in building and strengthening the relationship between the two countries, India’s ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu has said.

He addressed a gathering of Indian Americans at a reception here on Thursday. A group of Indian Americans from across the US observed India Advocacy Day at the US Capitol on Thursday, reaching out to more than 70 lawmakers, over a dozen of whom addressed the community at a reception later in the evening.

Sandhu said the diaspora and the US Congress have played a “pioneering role” in building and strengthening the India-US relationship.

“It is interesting to see all the Indian American community, the diaspora is so active on the Hill,” he said at the event organised by Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), a US-based non-profit organisation working on India and Indian-related studies on socioeconomic, political and international security matters.

“With a population of 4.5 million and direct contribution in diverse fields including tech, hotels, transportation, health care, finance and agriculture, Indian Americans are well established and respected but their issues and concerns on policy matters are not reflected on the Hill. We are here to make an impact and our voice is heard,” Khanderao Kand, director of FIIDS told PTI.

“We are mainly focused on the long-term strategic issues like US-India relations (ICET, strengthening and expanding India Pacific Quad, I2U2), immigration issues like country-wise quota and H-1B, as well as religious phobia towards all religious traditions originated from India,” he said.

More than 65 delegates from 20 states of the US, throughout the day, visited the offices of over 70 Congressmen and held discussions with their senior staffers on issues of importance to the Indian Americans.

“We ask to expand the Indo-Pacific quad to include countries around the Indian Ocean, particularly the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia and strengthen the framework like NATO for regional security,” Kand said.

“The feedback I got is, you did it very respectfully and eloquently and did it in a very effective way. You should be really proud of that. I’m really proud to see how far this community has come,” Congressman Ro Khanna, Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus told the diaspora community about their visits to of Congress’ offices.     “I have no doubt that we’re going to continue to grow, and continue to have this impact… Our involvement is not just good for the Indian American community, our involvement is good for the United States of America,” he said.

Applauding the role of the diaspora in the relationship, Nancy Jackson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said that America’s partnership with India is strong and growing.

“I really want to thank all of you for all the work that you do to advance and support this important global relationship. This friendship between our two democracies is a global force for good in the world, as are our partnerships in the QUAD,” she said.

Mukesh Aghi, president of the US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum, said the economic prosperity of India is good for America and its companies and a militarily strong India is good for regional stability.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said the reason why the India-US partnership is so strong is that Indian Americans are the bridge, that glue that brings India and the United States together.

Indian American Congressman Shri Thanedar called for comprehensive immigration reform and supported FIIDS recommendations to remove country quota in issuing the Green Card.

He also called for increasing the number of H-1B visas issued by the US every year for foreign technology workers.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said America and India have always been very strong allies and trading partners.

“It is very appropriate that the world’s largest democracy, and one of the world’s oldest democracies are such good friends, not only as commerce allies and we’ve worked together in so many ways,” she said.

“I have the honour of representing a very large and diverse and dynamic Indian American community. And, people that are in this community have contributed successfully in so many areas,” she said.

Congressman Dr Rich McCormick said Indian Americans are the most important demographic in the future of American politics.

“You could really choose the next President of the United States,” he said.