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'India is now on a different level'
Swadesh Chatterjee
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December 19, 2006 12:58 IST

I am still in a state of euphoric high. Seated there in the front row, listening to President George W Bush [Images] talking about India as a friend and talking about the community, it warmed my heart.

I've never felt so proud before about the relationship between the US and India and about the role of the Indian American community in bringing this about. I have never dreamed that such unbelievable satisfaction and fulfillment, which that I been hoping for for years, would come true.

It showed what we can achieve when we are united and leave aside all our biases, prejudices and egos for the common good of our countries and to make us as much a great influence in the policymaking in this country as the Jewish American community.

I have never been happier in my 30 years in this country.

President Bush's signing of this historic agreement will have an immense impact on the relations between our two countries and our peoples for the next 75-100 years. It is definitely about energy, but what is much more important is the trust between our two countries, as India will now be on a different level.

Ten or 15 years ago, India was not on the radar screen. Now the President is telling the world, 'India is a friend and a trusted ally.'

For me it's a dream come true.

This is the great thing about the US. With only two million Indian Americans, we can make a difference in its relationship with our mother country. It is a major step up and a sea-change in how the US views India as a global power, and this perception in the US will lead to a respect of India globally.

This whole strategic partnership is what I was dreaming about when I started my journey a long time ago. My father named me Swadesh because I was born in 1947 and now it shows that I can make a difference, that we can all make a difference.

The fact that the President paid such rich tributes to the Indian American community showed the gratitude he felt for our having done what we did in the past six months, for the first time in 30 years.

This is the first time the community has achieved this kind of major success. It shows how a relatively new and small immigrant community can make a difference in foreign policy in this country.

That is the testament that we saw today when we heard the remarks of the President.

It was profound that he said we not only explained this bill to the US citizens but that we carried the message to India, too. That is a major and unprecedented appreciation by a US President for the role of our community.

That also tells something about the President -- he knows what we are all about and he believes in us.

Never before has there been this kind of acknowledgment of the Indian American community and their contribution to policymaking. It's just unbelievable. I am also very grateful to all my friends and supporters who rallied around me in this effort and I salute all of them.

There was no way this nuclear deal would have gone through without Indian Americans. It was dead on arrival and there were so many hurdles we have crossed.

I hope this is an example we can follow and take it to the next level.

Because eventually what we want is the free flow of knowledge between our two countries, because we've got so much in common. I really believe that will happen now. 

It is only the passion of the Indian American community which can make it happen, not anything else and definitely not the money. It is the passion and the vision, and the Indian American community has plenty of both.

Swadesh Chatterjee, a prominent Indian-American lobbyist and entrepreneur, spoke to Aziz Haniffa

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