NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News  » News » 5 Indian Americans to spearhead Republican outreach to community

5 Indian Americans to spearhead Republican outreach to community

March 20, 2014 19:53 IST

Five longtime Republicans -- K V Kumar, Puneet Ahluwalia, Suhail Khan, Ajay Kuntamukkala and Harry Walia -- have been named to the GOP’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Council.

It is one of three such minority councils -- along with African American and Hispanic -- launched by the Republican National Committee ‘to strengthen ties with minority communities and expand engagement efforts across the country.’

The RNC said, “In addition to providing advice and counsel to RNC leadership and staff, National Advisory Council members will attend community events, speak with grassroots activists nationwide, and attend RNC meetings’.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said, ‘I want to ensure the Republican Party is building sincere relationships in every community across the country, and our advisory councils will help make that a reality. They are all leaders in their communities, and each council member brings a unique perspective.’

Sharon Day, RNC co-chair, echoed Priebus, saying, ‘We look forward to the councils’ guidance as we continue to build the RNC’s engagement efforts, and we welcome their input and advice as we take our message to diverse communities throughout our nation.’

All the Indian Americans named to the Asian Pacific American Advisory Council told India Abroad they were honored and elated, thanked Priebus and Day, and pledged to reach out to bring the Indian-American perspective to the table and get the message out about the GOP’s inclusiveness.

“When the RNC asked me to join,” Kumar, a California-based entrepreneur and business consultant, told India Abroad, “I thought… I can give some good advice and hopefully bring some changes to the Indian-American Republicans and especially to the younger generation.”

The RNC, Kumar said, “has come a long way, especially in the last two years, in wanting to know what the Indian Americans expect of them, and showing an interest to work closely with the Indian Americans.”

Ahluwalia, an influential Republican Party activist in Virginia, said he looked forward “to working with communities in having a greater voice in giving direction to the Republican Party. Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic community in the US, and Indian Americans lead on many fronts in this growth.”

“I have been involved in the county and state leadership of Virginia and now have been offered to become first vice chairman -- the number two -- from finance chair for Fairfax County Republican Committee, and also play an important role with the Republican Party of Virginia.”

I will be working on building various business coalitions -- doctors, lawyers, tech companies, etc -- input on campaigns and toning of message on various issues. I will be an ambassador of the party at various community and public events,” he added.

Ahluwalia, who is involved in business administration and development, including real-estate, financing and executive management, said, “I was surrogate speaker for Mark Obenshain in the Attorney General election last year in Virigina, and I attended events and spoke on his behalf and conveyed his message.”

“Importantly, I want to help and guide our next generation to pursue future in politics, work in campaigns and be assistants to leadership and ultimately run for office to win. Lastly and fundamentally work toward building strong US India relations.”

In 2009, Ahluwalia  joined George Allen Strategies,  a company started by former Virginia Governor and US Senator George Allen, assisting and advising on economic, financial and energy issues.

Former Bush administration official Khan, an attorney by training, describes himself as a life-long Reagan conservative. He is director, external affairs, Microsoft Corporation, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement, a Christian religious freedom think tank. Before his stint with the Bush administration in the Department of Transportation, Khan was a Congressional staffer.

At the DoT, he was awarded the Secretary’s Team Award in 2005 and the Secretary’s Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 2007. He was elected to the board of directors of the American Conservative Union in 2006, and in 2010 was awarded the Young Conservative Coalition’s Buckley Award.

Kuntamukkala, also an attorney by training, said, “The RNC has always been committed to engaging with the Asian Pacific American community, and the board will ensure that the concerns and issues that affect the APA community will be heard within the RNC.”

“I believe the Board can be key vehicle for carrying the GOP’s message of pro-growth economic policies, a strong national defense, and sensible reforms to our health care, immigration and education systems to the Indian-American community,” Kuntamukkala added.

Maryland-based Kuntamukkala is a partner in the International Trade and Investment practice of Hogan Lovells, a leading international law firm.

He also served in the Bush administration as senior adviser to the under secretary of commerce for industry and security.

He also assisted with the agency’s international initiatives, including coordinating US government and industry efforts under the US-India High Technology Cooperation Group to expand high-technology trade with India.

Walia, originally from Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, lives in Florida. A few years ago he made an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Venice, a small town in the sunshine state.

As a small businessman and longtime community activist, he said, “I will aggressively bring the perspective and issues of the Indian-American community to the table and make sure the RNC is sensitive to them.”

Reminiscing about the “great relations that existed between the US and India during the time of the Bush administration,” Walia said he would continue to push for “this strategic partnership to be even stronger, and that this is a major platform of the RNC’s foreign policy plank.”

In 1995, Walia co-founded the Soldiers to Scholars program with then Governor Lawton Chiles and state Representative Alzo Reddick in association with the University of Central Florida.  The program aids retired US soldiers in pursuit of higher education as well as bringing them as role models and mentors for inner city children.

For his work, Walia was awarded a Public Service Award and Outstanding Citizen Award for Community Revitalisation and the proclamation was read in the Florida House of Representatives by the Speaker of the House.

Image: (From top left) Harry Walia, Ajay Kuntamukkala, K V Kumar, Puneet Ahluwalia, Suhail Khan

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC