Republican United States Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the founder and co-chair of the newly reconstituted US Senate India Caucus, believes that the Caucus is 'really unique' because "it's the only country caucus that I am aware in the Senate."
Cornyn, in his welcoming remarks at the first meeting of the Caucus on Capitol Hill, told the packed audience of Indian Americans community leaders from across the country that this uniqueness is testament to "the significance of the (US-India) relationship and the shared values of the people of India and the United States."
Incidentally, the first meeting of the Caucus also doubled up as a reception to honour India's Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar.
He said the idea to form such a caucus was a veritable no-brainer for him because "India is the anchor of stability in Asia, and in fact our countries are natural allies and partners even though we may not always have realised it."
"So the way I look at it, we are now where we should have been many years ago, but we are finally in a place as natural partners, we have shared values, including individual liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law."
The lawmaker added, "We recognise the power of trade and investment and the entrepreneurial spirit to create new opportunities both here and in India."
Cornyn, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Washington and New Delhi "also share common concern against terrorism, extremism, and the ideologies of hatred, which have threatened and indeed killed our countrymen and women."
"More and more Americans recognise that our two nations share common interest and common values and that's why the Senate India Caucus is growing," he said, and told the audience to loud cheers and applause, "as a matter of fact, today we had the 37th Senator join the India Caucus."
Cornyn said that with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent trip to India, the US-India strategic partnership had been further enhanced "and we continue to strengthen our cooperation and our relationship."
"America is now India's largest trading partner and investment is growing and last year, there was a new era in civil nuclear cooperation that I was proud to support, as were the majority of the members of the US Senate."
Cornyn also lauded India's support for the US strategy in Afghanistan along with other coalition partners and spoke of New Delhi's commitment of more than $1.2 billion in reconstructions funds in that country "as our countries continue to work together to fight terrorism especially since the devastating attacks in Mumbai last year."
Earlier, Cornyn told rediff.com that one of the priorities of the Senate India Caucus would be to urge the Barack Obama administration 'to improve our relation from a national security perspective as much as our economic perspective."
Cornyn argued that "we've seen the effects of international terrorism strike India, obviously with the Mumbai attacks, and we continue to remember not too many years ago when we lost 3,000 people on September 11. So, that's going to be one of the cornerstones of our national security relationship, but it goes much further than that."
When rediff.com pointed out that since the initial founding of the Caucus over five years ago, it had essentially been comatose and not take any initiatives in a concerted manner, he admitted, "You are right. As an entity, we have not done a lot, but as members we have done a lot. Around here, individual Senators have taken it upon themselves to travel to India and help build these ties."
Cornyn promised that this time around the Caucus would endeavour to be more active and said, "We'll of course be hosting events like this with the ambassador and we are delighted to welcome her to Washington, DC."
"We will also look for opportunities wherever we can to do things to advance the cause of US-India ties," he said, but added the caveat, "We won't have a legislative agenda. I think we'll leave that to our roles as members of the Senate and members of the House."