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Indian Americans plan Day of Advocacy to push N-deal

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 23, 2008 09:17 IST
Last Updated: September 24, 2008 00:00 IST


Scores of Indian American community leaders from across the country are expected to descend on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in what has been billed 'A Day of Advocacy' -- in an attempt to prevail on lawmakers to ratify the India-United States civilian nuclear agreement before Congress adjourns. The event also coincides with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [Images] meeting with President George W Bush [Images] on September 25.

The full day of lobbying will begin with a strategy meeting at the Hay Adams Hotel in downtown Washington, DC, where the community leaders will be hosted for a working luncheon by the US India Business Council after which they will fan out to the various Congressional offices of their various Senators and Representatives. In the evening, a reception will be held in the meeting room of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is chaired by California Democrat and Nuclear deal critic Congressman Howard Berman.

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The Day of Advocacy is being organised by the US-India Friendship Council -- an umbrella group of all of the community's political, social and professional organisations and coordinated by North Carolina entrepreneur Swadesh Chatterjee.

"This is part of our Washington Chalo campaign on behalf of the nuclear deal, which is similar to what we did two years ago before the vote on the Hyde Amendment," Chatterjee told rediff.com

The Day of Advocacy will also coincide with a full-page ad the Council has placed in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

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The ad states that 2.3 million 'proud Americans of Indian origin ask the US Congress to join them -- and India and other billion-person economy -- in bringing an end to India's civil nuclear isolation'.

It predicts that 'ratification of the US-India 123 Agreement will unite the world's largest and oldest democracies, laying a foundation of mutual trust and respect, and advancing a strong partnership -- in commerce, international security, and more'.

The ad declares that 'the US and India are natural partners -- as beacons of multicultural democracy, as free markets, and as the largest English speaking nations on earth'.

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'Schedule the vote in this Congress, clinch a vital partnership with India,' it urges and invites lawmakers to join the Indian American community for a cocktail reception at the House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting room.

While the ad is sponsored by the US-India Friendship Council and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, it is also supported by the Alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Federation of Indian Association of Tri-State Area, the Indian American Forum for Political Education, the National Federation of Indian Americans and the National Organisation of Indian Associations.

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Meanwhile, this coalition has also sent out a draft letter to Indian Americans around the country to be faxed to their respective Senators and Representatives. urging them to vote for the nuclear deal.

The draft letter states that 'as one of the 2.6 million Americans who trace their roots to India, I believe that this historic agreement represents a great opportunity for both the United States and India for further strengthening a strategic relationship between the two great democracies'.

It notes that 'this agreement strikes a fine balance between the United States and India in two ways: The agreement provides for India to gain access to technology which allows it to meet its burgeoning energy demand in an environmentally sustainable manner and help in mitigating carbon emissions and global warming. By having India place strict international safeguards on its reactors, the US can continue to support its nonproliferation interests'.

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The letter also states that the deal would 'open up new venues for business of US companies with India and tremendously increase trade between the two countries'.

'Today, I believe the US has a unique window of opportunity to send a vote of confidence to India and the Indian Diaspora in America. This vote is YES for the approval of the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement,' the draft letter suggests.

This lobbying campaign follows a similar undertaking by the Indian American community last week under the banner of the Indian American Committee led by Dr Hemant Patel, immediate past president of AAPI turned community activist.

Coverage

This lobbying effort, which also included a Congressional luncheon and included a coalition of Indian American organisations, also managed to convince Berman to attend. The lawmaker said that contrary to what has been perceived, he is fundamentally in favour of enhanced India-US strategic ties, including the civilian nuclear deal and its eventual passage, even though he believes certain points need to be clarified.

Berman said, "The notion of making the India-US relationship closer than ever and one of a strategic nature is a very wise decision."

"I love India and the democracy in India and I have many friends in the Indian American community," he said, and reiterated, "I am all for good relations between the two countries."

Berman said he disagreed with the Bush administration in the way it went about in formulating this agreement with insufficient consultation with the Congress and hence had concerns over certain aspects of the deal. But he hoped that these differences could be ironed out.

Also in attendance at this reception were House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and longtime friend and former co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Congressmen Gary Ackerman and Frank Pallone.

Representing the Budh administration were Brian McCormack, assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Strategic Initiatives and Evan Feigenbaum, deputy assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.






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