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'A new high between our nations'

By Aziz Haniffa/Rediff.com
January 29, 2015 15:35 IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama at Hyderabad House, January 25, 2015.US Congressman Joe Crowley, who traveled with Barack Obama to to India, shares his memories of the visit with Aziz Haniffa/Rediff.com

"It was an incredible trip," US Congressman Joe Crowley, erstwhile co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, tells Rediff.com on his return to the US after accompanying President Barack Obama to India.

"Being on Air Force One alone was so memorable," gushes Crowley.

Crowley, who is vice chair of the Democratic Caucus in the US House of Representatives, also asserts that the chemistry between Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which he witnessed up close, is "definitely for real -- there is absolutely no doubt that they genuinely like each other."

"It was such an exuberant trip. I saw so much genuine goodwill between the president and the prime minister," adds Crowley, "and witnessed the euphoria of the people we met. It was very real and you could feel it."

At the Congressional delegation's meeting with Modi -- Minority Leader in the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi headed the delegation -- Crowley says, "We could see how happy the prime minister was with how things were going and how this relationship has been taken to a new level."

"So, it was really genuine," he reiterates, "but we are still waiting on the details of some of the agreements that we've entered into -- the US-India civilian nuclear deal, agreements pertaining to energy, agreements on further interactions between our militaries."

Asked about their conversations with Modi when the Congressional delegation met with the prime minister, Crowley reveals, "We also talked a little bit about the Indian-American community and told him how proud we were to have Ami Bera, who is the new co-chair of the India Caucus."

"We were also thrilled to be accompanied by Rich Verma, our new ambassador in India," Crowley says, describing Verma as a "wonderful, wonderful man and what a great statement to India to have him as the first Indian-American US ambassador to India."

"And the beauty of Rich and Ami," he adds, "is that they don't suffer from an identity crisis -- they are very proud of their heritage and that shows tremendously and it is so positive for the furtherance of our relationship."

Asked what the conversation was at his table at the State dinner for Obama, where he was in the company of General Dalbir Singh Suhag, the army chief, and business tycoon Gautam Adani among others, Crowley says it was mainly pleasantries and "getting to know each other type of thing and about investment in the defence sector in India and how the prime minister had increased the investment in this sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent."

"We also talked about the prime minister's efforts to clean India. It was a very positive, cordial conversation we had all around," he recalls, adding, "It was mainly about what we want to see in the growth of the relationship."

On Air Force One, Crowley says the conversations with Obama and the First Lady were about family, personal stories and "how we were all looking forward to participating along with him at the Republic Day activities."

Crowley, who sat alongside Pelosi at the Republic Day parade, calls the parade "pretty amazing."

"A lot of Russian hardware, but some American as well," he says, "I am sure we will see more American hardware at the parade in the future."

Obama's trip, Crowley believes, has furthered the US-India strategic relationship, but acknowledges that "relationships between countries have highs and lows and this was a new high between our two nations."

"I am sure there will be some hiccups along the way -- that's the way it goes," says Crowley. "But in terms of our relationship, there is now a new paradigm and that is also somewhat begrudgingly recognised by China. They are not all that thrilled that we have come to all these agreements."

Also Read: Modi spoke to me in Gujarati: US Congressman

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Aziz Haniffa/Rediff.com in Washington, DC
 
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