By Surekha Vijh
WASHINGTON: US Congressional leaders welcomed the strengthening ties between the US and India at a recent Capitol Hill Reception in Washington, DC.
Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, said India can play a greater leadership role in the subcontinent as it is a growing economy and a vibrant democracy. Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), Chair, India Caucus, expressed his full support for India on various levels.
Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman, Subcommittee, South Asia, said that he was honored to be with the committee and expressed his whole-hearted support in favor of India.
Congresspersons Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ami Bera (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY) and several high ranking officials from the State Department, the US Senate and the India Caucus participated in the reception.
Ami Bera, the fourth Indian American and the new congressman from California said, he was very happy to extend any support to the Indian American community which was already among the top immigrant communities in the US. He had earlier urged the California Governor Jerry Brown to induct Dilip Singh Saund, the first Indian (Asian) American elected to congress into the California Hall of Fame.
“Congressman Saund was a trailblazer for civil rights and for the Asian American community,” Congressman Bera said.
Mr. Jagdish Sewhani, President of the AIPACom, pointed out that the issue of the US and its allied forces pulling out from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and the resurgence of the Taliban has created anxiety in South Asia.
“There is a fear in the region that Taliban, supported by the radicalized Pakistani army may make a forceful bid to take over Afghanistan and establish Sharia Law. This could trigger tension in the region,” he said.
Disappointed over Pakistan’s sluggish pace of the trial in the Mumbai terror attack, Congressman Ed Royce demanded that the seven suspects, including LeT operational commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, be handed over to the International Criminal Court to bring them to justice.
Royce further feared that there were rogue elements in the ISI, who could use the opportunity of any instability in Afghanistan to go back to the Taliban era.
“Ethnic cleansing is going on in Pakistan today against those who are speaking against it,” he said, emphasizing that the population of Hindus in Pakistan has now dropped to 1.5 per cent, against 25 per cent at the time of independence.
Talking about the history of the India Caucus, Mr. Sewhani said that the Caucus has been really a source of strength. It has done a commendable job to further cement the Indo-American relationship.
Mr. Sewhani alleged said that Pakistan was still the epicenter of ` terrorism’. There were facts establishing that Pakistan was using terrorism as a tool to achieve its foreign policy objectives and making Pakistani society into the most radicalized society in the World.
Even though Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif ostensibly wants to mend the relationship with India, Pakistan Intelligence Agency (ISI) is reported to have opened two new centers to train a large number of youngsters in terrorism on the other side of Jaisalmair city.
“Both, the US and India are natural allies as two democracies. There is a mutual understanding and regard for each other. You may say a new era in the Indo-AmericanÂ relationshipÂ has dawned. “The time has come to take this relationship from aÂ mere friendship to a strategicallyÂ meaningfulÂ relationship”, asserted Mr. Sewhani.
The reception was organized by the American India Public Affairs Committee (AIPACom) to open a dialogue between the growing US-India relationship and the role of Indian Americans in uniting the two nations.
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