By Surekha Vij
WASHINGTON: In a charged atmosphere with grace, enthusiasm and unity, the Indian American Community of Metropolitan Washington hosted a reception to welcome Navtej Singh Sarna, who is as the new Ambassador of India to the US , and to bid farewell to outgoing deputy Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu who is going as India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.
More than 350 prominent members of the Indian American Community attended the reception on December 4 at Waterford, Virginia, in honour of the two envoys and in one of the largest gatherings for an event like that.
Speaking at the occasion, Ambassador Sarna congratulated the Indian American community for its outstanding success in many areas and praised their contributions in various fields and in strengthening the Indo-US relationship.
Sarna announced a fresh initiative to improve the Consular service, starting from the first week of January, 2017. The Indian Embassy in Washington DC and the five consulates in New York, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco will hold “Open House” once every fortnight wherein senior embassy/Consulate officials will attend to grievances of public on Passport, Visa and OCI cards in person. The date and time of each Open House session will be posted on the website of the Embassy and the Consulates.
Ambassador Sarna praised his predecessor Sandhu, calling him his colleague and friend. ‘Since there is no rest for the best, he leaves as high commissioner to Sri Lanka, another challenging post,’ Sarna added.
Coming back to Washington after 15 years Sarana said he saw many friends among the audience although things have hanged since he was there last time, nuclear test by India, then sanctions against India and beyond were tough days, yet inch by inch and year by year relationship between India and US has improved whether it was at Hill or defense strategic affairs.
‘I salute to the Indian community for making it possible,’ Sarna said. “Today India and US are in close partnership,” he added.
In his remarks, Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, DCM, also highlighted the role of the Indian American community in strengthening India US relationship. He stressed on the need to involve the youth of Indian American community in activities aimed at strengthening India US ties. Sandhu ‘Each one of you is a success story and you are the actual ambassador,” he added.
Sandhu asked the participants to involve new generation – just like the Jewish people who send their children to Israel – in their ancestral land. After they finish high school to spent time, the Indian parents should help their children connect with India.
Dr. Har Swarup Singh introduced Sarana and Sandhu to the gathering.
The four-hour-long program started with the singing of two national anthems by Indian American school children. They also performed Ganesh Vandana in classical Bharatnatyam style.
Dr Yogendra Gupta, coordinator for the event, called Sandhu an envoy with whom everyone was emotionally connected and thanked Sarna for accepting the invitation on the first week of his arrival.
Others who spoke included Dr. Sambhu Banik, Jay Bhandari, Ashok Batra, Kripa S. Singh, Satish Korpe and Angela Anand.
Bryce Reeves, candidate for the Lt-Governor for Virginia, said, “India and US have had diplomatic relationship since 1945. We both value democratic values and we both believe in as president Reagan said ‘opportunity, freedom and liberty.’ Now we are strategic partners in many key areas, that’s even better.”
The function was held at Waterford, Virginia, with delicious food from the famous Café Tandoor adding spice to the event.
Sarna and Sandhu posed for photos with the community members.