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Special messages from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and President George Bush were the highlight of the India Abroad annual awards conferred at a gala banquet at the Hotel New York Palace, which was attended by nearly 300 guests, on Friday.
Relations between the United States and India, on the ascendant for a few years but which soared since the July 28 Summit between President George Bush [Images] and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington, DC, was picked for the India Abroad Event of the Year 2005 award.
In a specially videographed message for the occasion, Prime Minister Singh lauded the Indian American community for the enhancement in relations between the two nations, spoke warmly of his July summit with President Bush, and singled out India Abroad -- the oldest, and largest selling weekly Indian newspaper in the United States � for its contribution to furthering Indo-US ties.
India Abroad, incidentally, is the only South Asian newspaper to have had back-to-back exclusive interviews with both President Bush and Senator John F Kerry, the presidential challenger in 2004.
President Bush, in a special message for the event, said, 'For generations, Americans of Indian descent have contributed to the success and vitality of our nation. Today, these individuals are leaders in their professions in business, science, government, and many other fields.
'America looks forward to building on our bilateral relationship to expand our economic ties and lay the foundation of peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren.'
President Bush also sent his 'personal greetings to those gathered for the India Abroad annual banquet'.
The awards were handed over to Ronen Sen, India's distinguished Ambassador to the United States, and David McCormick, the newly confirmed US under secretary for commerce who recently led a high-powered delegation to India comprising senior officials from the US Departments of Commerce, State and the Pentagon for a meeting of the US-India High Technology Consultative Group meeting.
Both Sen and McCormick paid tribute to the Indian American community, without whose untiring efforts the formerly estranged democracies could not have seen this upturn in relations. Former US Senator Birch Bayh, who was
among the prominent attendees, seconded this in his speech introducing the award.
The India Abroad awards were instituted in 2002 to honour individual accomplishments among Indian Americans during the year. Iowarepresentative Swati Dandekar was chosen as the first India Abroad Person of the Year. In 2003, Sonal Shah, co-founder of Indicorps, a non-profit organization that sends Indian American youngsters on a fellowship to India for a year, was chosen for the award.
Last year, apart from the India Abroad Person of the Year award -- conferred on Olympian silver medallist gymnast Mohini Bhardwaj -- a Publisher's Special Award was also instituted, with attorney Vanita Gupta, who successfully fought a case of discrimination of African Americans in Tulia, Texas, chosen for the honour.
This year, given the landmark shifts that have taken place in the relations between the world's two largest democracies, the India Abroad Event of the Year award was instituted to mark the tide in history.
Apart from this award, Bobby Jindal, only the second Indian American to ever be elected United States Congressman, was conferred the India Abroad Person of the Year 2005 award. He received the award from Dr Shashi Tharoor, Under Secretary General in the United Nations.
President Bush had this to say of Congressman Jindal in his special message: I appreciate him for leadership and public service. His good work and achievements as a Rhodes Scholar, a Louisiana and federal government official, and a member of the US House of Representatives are a source of inspiration to many and reflect the character of our country.'
In his acceptance, Jindal recalled the Indian American dream and experience, and commended the community for being a role model for other immigrant groups.
Accepting the award, Jindal said, "It is a tremendous honour."
The India Abroad Publisher of the Year award was conferred on Anurag Kashyap, Aliya Deri, Samir Sudhir Patel and Rajiv Tarigopula, four youngsters who claimed the top four slots at the 78th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, as American an institution as McDonald's, by India Abroad publisher Ajit Balakrishnan.
The award ceremony was attended by the who's who of the community, including writer Suketu Mehta, actress and celebrity culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey, Oscar winner Bhanu Athaiya, Ambassador T P Sreenivasan, New York Consul General Neelam Deo, philanthropist Abraham George, political activists Swadesh Chatterjee, Ramesh Kapur and Sambu Banik, businesswoman, philanthropist and socialite Meera Gandhi, and visiting Indian filmmakers Ruchi Narain and Homi Adjania.
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