US Lawmaker: UN Security Council “laughable” Without India

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May 9, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Lanham, MD – Strongly supporting a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council, an influential US lawmaker has questioned the relevance of the institution without the world’s largest democracy at the table.

May 9, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Lanham, MD – Strongly supporting a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council, an influential US lawmaker has questioned the relevance of the institution without the world’s largest democracy at the table.

At the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, MD, are seen from left to right: Dr. Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors For America; Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for US Surgeon General; Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York, Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans; and Mini Timmaraju, Chief of Staff for Congressman Ami Bera (Democrat – California)

“India represents one-sixth of the world’s population and it ought to have a position at that table”, said Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York, Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans.  President Obama “has proffered that”, he pointed out at the magnificent Sri Siva Vishnu Temple where he was a special guest on a picture-perfect Spring afternoon.

“I strongly support it and hope the UN moves towards that”, he said.  “I believe it is inevitable.  It would make the institution laughable if at some point it does not recognize one-sixth of the world’s population in that Council”.

The lawmaker noted that when the UN body was created in 1946, India was not in a place to demand a position.  “The world has changed dramatically” since then, he said.  “India will be the largest populated country in the world.  The interesting aspect about India is that it has one foot firmly in the modern world and one foot firmly in the developing world which gives it a great balance and understanding of the entire world”.

A Hindu priest performs Puja at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Maryland.  Looking on in the foreground from left to right are: Shekar Narasimhan, an appointee to President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and a key Committee Chairperson at the temple; Congressman Joseph Crowley (Democrat – New York); Dr. Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors For America; and Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for US Surgeon General

Congressman Crowley was joined at the temple by: Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for US Surgeon General; Dr. Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors For America, a grassroots organization that she has built with Murthy which advocates for affordable, accessible and better health-care; Mini Timmaraju, Chief of Staff for Congressman Ami Bera (Democrat – California); Mythili Bachu, Vice President of the Council of Hindu Temples of North America; and Jeremy Woodrum, Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Crowley.  These special guests were invited by Shekar Narasimhan, an appointee to President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), a key Committee Chairperson at the temple, and a renowned, highly respected leader of our community.

Addressing an audience comprising of the leadership in the temple, after touring the sanctuary, Congressman Crowley spoke about his forte: India-US relations.  Brushing aside any concerns about the furtherance of bilateral ties, he predicted “great relations” for the world’s largest and greatest democracies.

“I, for one, am very bold in terms of my predictions as well as confident that our two nations will enjoy great relations in this century”, he said.  “We are drawn together by commonalities of democracy and freedom”.

Referring to India’s election as “the incredible event that is taking place right now”, the lawmaker marveled that 815 million people are voting, of which 100 million are new voters.  “There are probably as many new voters in India as there are voters in the US”, he said.  “Somehow, that vote counts regardless of economic strata”.

Congressman Crowley deftly steered clear of any prediction or premonition regarding the possible outcome of the election.  “The Indian people will make a decision about who best represents them”, he said.  “When that’s done, we will deal with whatever that government is”.

Community activist Shekar Narasimhan (left) gives a tour of the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Maryland, highlighting the tenets of Hinduism to, from left to right: Congressman Joseph Crowley (Democrat – New York); Dr. Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors For America; and Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for US Surgeon General

On the domestic front, he dwelt on the success of an issue which he has spearheaded — the FBI, under the Department of Justice, now recognizes hate crimes towards individual ethnic and religious minorities.  Previously, “when a crime was committed against a Sikh American, it was presumed it was done because they (Sikhs) were thought to be Muslim”, he told the gathering.  While, “no violence is tolerable”, he said, “it was important to delineate the statistics so that resources can be allocated to fight these crimes”.

Still, America is far behind other countries when it comes to allowing practicing Sikhs to serve in the armed forces.  Congressman Crowley noted that “Sikh Americans are serving in the US military, but they have to go through a rigorous and unnecessary protocol to allow them to wear their religious garb”.  Of the three Sikh Americans currently serving in the military, the lawmaker has met one – Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi.  “He looks regal with his turban”, he said.  “I would like the New York Police Department (NYPD) to follow suit” and allow Sikh Americans to serve with their articles of faith.

Shekar Narasimhan told temple leaders, “You and I know coming from India that Sikhs are, in fact, the backbone of the Indian military.  You and I also know that in all the NATO forces, this is not even an issue – it is accepted.  So, it has always been somewhat of an anachronism” here in America, he said.

Narasimhan applauded Congressman Crowley for leading efforts in getting 105 members of the House and 15 Senators to write a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in support of Sikh Americans in the armed forces.  The Defense Department has now agreed to re-examine the issue.

At the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, MD, are Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York (front right), Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, with Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for US Surgeon General

“Why does this affect us as Hindus?”, Narasimhan asked.  “Why should it affect us as Indian-Americans”?  He replied, “When these issues occur, whether they are symbolic or real, the bottom-line is that they affect all of us.  They discriminate.  So, we all need to step up on these issues and Congressman Crowley has”, he said.

Narasimhan also commended the lawmaker for co-hosting the first-ever Congressional Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill, with the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple.  Clearly elated at the success of this historic event, Congressman Crowley told the gathering, “We had over 500 people, over 30 bipartisan members of Congress”.  He thanked Congressman Bera, currently the only Indian-American lawmaker, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat – Hawaii), the first Hindu lawmaker who took the oath of office on the Bhagavad Geeta, for their support.

“It was a marvelous event, the celebration itself”, he said.  “It comes around the same time as Christmas and Hanukkah which are all celebrations of light over darkness, goodness over evil, knowledge over ignorance.  All these celebrations talk to the commonality of mankind”.

Looking at Vivek Murthy, the lawmaker quipped, “I feel a little uncomfortable speaking in front of this underachiever.  It’s an awesome responsibility, being placed in charge of the health and well-being of the United States”, he said.

As things stand, Murthy’s confirmation by the Senate is facing stiff opposition by the National Rifle Association.  The Yale-educated, Harvard physician who, at 36, is the youngest nominee for US Surgeon General, has expressed his support for sensible, limited gun safety measures such as a ban on assault weapons, mandatory safety training and limits on ammunition.  This has irked the potent gun lobby.

In his address at the temple, Murthy focused on the field of health and spoke about collaborating and giving back to the larger community.  “Among the many challenges facing America, I would put health at the top of the list”, he said.  “Our challenges on the health-care front have economic consequences, national security consequences and ultimately, they will impact our standing and leadership in the world”.

President Obama’s pick for America’s next doctor observed that nowadays, health is largely determined outside of hospitals and clinics.  It’s a result of “what we eat at home, in the physical activity we engage in”, he said.

It is noteworthy that the event was held at a temple where several members of the Indian-American community have availed of, and benefitted from, services offered by free health clinics organized on a weekend.  Murthy underscored the importance of faith-based communities which he believed “can make a big difference in our health-related choices.  “Temples can play a powerful role in giving people access to health-care”, he said.  “People who might not go to hospitals and clinics, do go to their place of worship for screening” and other health-related issues.

Murthy recalled that growing up, he spent several days a week at the temple, volunteering, helping to organize events with family members.  On Saturday, he stressed the importance of making an impact outside the confines of the Hindu community.

Even as he spoke of “building bridges”, Murthy lauded the inclusiveness of the Hindu religion.  “We don’t think of Hinduism as the sole path to Moksha (salvation) or self-realization”, he said.  “We think of our path as one of many paths that can lead to a destination.  We give equal respect to all the different paths of religious worship”.

Murthy recommended reaching out to other faith-based groups and building collaborations to advance not just health, but other challenges that are faced by all community members.  “I am very inspired by leaders like Shekar Narasimhan who think about the challenges of the entire community and how to overcome them”, he said.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM