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Exclusive! For first time, GOP manifesto calls India a 'strategic ally'

August 24, 2012 11:55 IST
Credit owes in large measure to Indian American Gopal TK Krishna for the Republican Party's amended platform acknowledging India's importance to the US as never before, reports Aziz Haniffa from Washington, DC 

In language unprecedented in the history of the National Republican Platform that will be provided to all the delegates attending the GOP Convention in Tampa, Florida, this week -- where Mitt Romney will be officially anointed the Republican presidential nominee -- the party platform has declared that "India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner."

The major transformation in the language was in large part due to the phenomenal efforts of Gopal TK Krishna, the most influential and powerful Indian American Republican in the important caucus state of Iowa, who was the only Indian American on the GOP's policy-making Platform Committee to the Republican National Convention.

Also, in the aftermath of the horrific massacre of Sikh worshippers at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by white supremacist Wade Michael Page, the amended platform urged "protection for adherents of all India's religions," and acknowledged "contributions to this country that are being made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry."

In the section on South Asia, drafted by the Platform Committee's subcommittee on foreign policy and defence, chaired by former US Senator Jim Talent, the platform, a copy of which was obtained by, said, "We welcome a stronger relationship with the world's largest democracy, India, both economic and cultural, as well as in terms of national security."

"We hereby affirm and declare that India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner," it said, and added, "We encourage India to permit greater foreign investment and trade."

Talent, who represented Missouri, incidentally is tipped to be the secretary of defence if Romney wins the US presidency.

The platform further stated, "We urge protection for adherents of all India's religions," and declared, "Both as Republicans and as Americans, we note with pride the contributions to this country that are being made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry."

This language on US-India relations, the call for protection of Sikh Americans, and an appreciation of the contributions made to the United States by Indian Americans, was in stark contrast to the original bland language the platform had drafted with regard to US relations with India.

And this is how the change in language came about.

On August 17, a few days before the deliberations of the Platform Committee were to take place in Tampa, Neil Bradley, a staff member of the platform subcommittee on foreign policy and defence, contacted Krishna and told him that Talent had asked him "to reach out to you and discuss possible language for the platform regarding India."

Krishna immediately shot off the following proposal, which said, "USA and India being the world's oldest and largest democracies, we recognise our special relationship, understand our common security concerns and share our commitment to political freedom and representative government. We hereby affirm and declare that India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner."

"We want to continue to welcome and promote free movement of intellectuals between India and USA to create jobs in both countries."

"In light of recent tragic event in Wisconsin, we, once again, express our solidarity with people from India. We appreciate the significant economic contribution of about three million highly educated and entrepreneurial people of Indian origin living in USA. We reaffirm our tolerance for all religions that promote peace and spiritually guide its followers to take personal responsibility to excel and help others. 

"To express our concern and to show our support after the recent power outages in India, we extend our commitment to provide assistance to India in the planning, design, construction, safety and operations of nuclear power plants in India, which will reduce fossil fuel pollution, encourage industrial growth and promote general welfare of citizens of India.

"With more than 50 per cent of its 1.2 billion population below the age of 25, we recognise the vital role of increasingly prosperous consumers in the economic prosperity of India and USA. We strongly support and encourage continued bilateral trade with reduced barriers and swift resolution of disputes. We encourage India to permit foreign investment in the India's retail sector to reduce its annual inflation with efficient production, storage, distribution and sale of locally grown perishable products and import of most cost-effective foreign agricultural products like beef, pork, corn, soybeans and wheat from USA."

Bradley then got back to Krishna saying, "I wanted to raise three potential issues. Immigration is being handled by another subcmte so I worry about including immigration specific language here. The specificity of the trade language could also give rise to each of our country specific sections getting caught up in discussions about emphasising some exports over others."

"Finally, I worry about addressing the Wisconsin shooting here and the possibility that we inadvertently do not address the other recent shootings elsewhere," he said. "I took the liberty of addressing these items while attempting to incorporate your points into style being used for the larger draft. Do you think this might work?" 

Krishna then submitted three amendments to this draft which included the all-important language that "we hereby affirm and declare that India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner."

Krishna told, "Following several interventions, I was able to convince me fellow delegates in the foreign policy/defence subcommittee to amend the first draft of August 19, which resulted in the revised August 20th draft,  that was discussed and adopted by the full committee, without any changes, and incorporating the unprecedented language in a National Republican Platform."

Earlier, Krishna had informed Bradley that "if the whole platform contains only bland language, it would be disappointing to myself and others like me, who are looking for courageous commitments, faithful friendships and specific statements from the campaign," and added, 'We hope our trips to Tampa will not turn out to be a total waste."

He had warned that "if the campaign is afraid of specificity, it won't win the crucial votes that will put it over the top in the critical states."

Describing the Platform Committee deliberations, Krishna told, "It was an exciting experience. Success in my subcommittee added to the thrill of developing a National Platform."

He said, "It provided me valuable opportunity to network with activist delegates from all other states and territories.  It was fun to receive more than normal attention from the elected officials of other states for just being from Iowa."

The Hyderabad-born Krishna, one of the most influential grass-roots Republican Party activists and rainmakers in Iowa -- which has traditionally held the first presidential caucus and thus been coveted by every incumbent and challenger, said, "Every time I think of how I contributed to the recognition of India and people from India by the Republican Party, it makes me feel humble and proud of my parents and my teachers in my school and college in India, who taught me the value and importance of 'gratitude'."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC