Influential American Senators Pledge to Strengthen India-US Ties

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July 29, 2015

 By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – On July 21, at an exclusive reception to welcome New Delhi’s top diplomat in Washington, powerful American Senators vowed to strengthen ties between “the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy”.

July 29, 2015

 By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – On July 21, at an exclusive reception to welcome New Delhi’s top diplomat in Washington, powerful American Senators vowed to strengthen ties between “the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy”.

At a Capitol Hill reception held in his honor, Indian Ambassador Arun K. Singh (second from right) is flanked by the hosts, Senator John Cornyn (Republican – Texas) at left, and Senator Mark Warner (Democrat – Virginia)

Noting that India and the US “have shared values”, John Cornyn, senior Senator from Texas and Republican Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, said “it makes perfect sense for us to come together” in “a very dangerous and ever-changing world”.  He emphasized that India being “a growing nation, with people rising in prosperity and purchasing power, the trade relationship between our countries is very important”.

The reception, held in honor of the new Indian Ambassador Arun K. Singh, was co-hosted by Senators Cornyn and Mark Warner of Virginia, Democratic Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, on Capitol Hill.  Among the eminent guests at the packed event on Tuesday evening were: Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs; Senator Thad Cochran (Republican – Mississippi), Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee; business and industry leaders; think tank experts; Indian-American community activists from across the country; members of academia, social institutions, press and media.

Senator Mark Warner (Democrat-Virginia) addressing a reception, which he co-hosted with Senator John Cornyn (Republican-Texas) seen here at right, in honor of Indian Ambassador Arun K. Singh. Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

Marveling at the headway in the India-US relationship, Senator Warner told the gathering that from being “challenging” some 25 years ago, it is now “extraordinarily strong” from the standpoint of strategic ties, foreign direct investment (FDI), trade and more.  He particularly mentioned the “role played by the Indian-American diaspora” in strengthening bilateral ties.

“There are a lot of things sometimes in Washington that don’t work”, he noted, adding, “ One of the things that does work is the Senate India Caucus” which, as in the case of the House India Caucus, is the largest bilateral country-specific caucus in the US Congress.  “That is I think because of the enormous respect, trust, friendship and relationship that exists between the United States and India”, Senator Warner said.

Together with Senator Cornyn, he intends to increase the strength of the Senate India Caucus from 40-plus members to over 60.  The Caucus was founded in 2004 by Senator Cornyn and the then New York Senator, and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in the State Department (left) with Ridhika Batra, Director of FICCI-USA, at a reception hosted by the Senate India Caucus to welcome the new Indian Ambassador Arun K. Singh

At the reception, Assistant Secretary Biswal emphasized that India’s rise is in US’ interest and a strong US is in India’s interest.  “We are incredibly fortunate that we have an ambassador from India who is deeply invested in this relationship”, she said.

Biswal noted recent strides in the India-US relationship under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama and their active participation in successful bilateral summits.

 “All the makings of an ever more ambitious and important and consequential partnership are in place and now the rest is up to us”, she told the gathering.

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Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, Democratic Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, speaking about India-US ties at a Capitol Hill reception. At left is business executive Mr. Sudhakar Shenoy

Ambassador Singh averred, “We find tremendous convergence in terms of our security and strategic needs across the globe”.  Looking at the lawmakers, he said, “Going ahead, and in this the Senate and Senate India Caucus can take the lead, we need to focus more on the economic dimension of our relationship”.

The envoy spoke of increasing bilateral trade from its current figure of $100 billion to $500 billion by encouraging “investments flowing in both directions” and “more technology and innovation partnership.  Looking to the future, India sees itself very much as an innovation economy and clearly with that there would be a lot of scope for partnership between us”, he said.

Referring to a recent report, ‘Indian Roots, American Soil’, by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Grant Thornton (GT), Ambassador Singh pointed out that “a new phenomenon” has “come into play” in bilateral relations – investments by Indian companies in the US.  The survey revealed that 100 Indian companies have invested over $15 billion in the US, creating more than 91,000 jobs.

To the Co-Chairs of the Senate India Caucus, the envoy said, “Senator Cornyn, you will be happy to know that Texas was the state with the highest number of Indian investments.  I am sure Virginia will catch up very soon”, he added, looking at Senator Warner.

Ambassador Singh thanked the Senators for their energy and commitment in advancing India-US ties – on the economic front, urging closer defense cooperation, calling for the release of a Diwali stamp, among other initiatives

Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia (left) mingling with Indian-American community activists at a reception on Capitol Hill. Seen at right is Dr. Sambhu Banik of Maryland

“Your efforts have also drawn attention to the people-to-people dimension of the relationship between our two countries”, he said.  “I strongly believe that a really firm basis to any relationship is always provided by the people-to-people dimension”.

He drew attention to the strength and practice of democracy in India which boasts of the “largest electorate in the world.  Last time when we voted, more than 570 million people actually exercised their franchise”, said the envoy.

He extolled the achievements and contributions of the over 1.3 million Indian-Americans.  “I am told one out of seven patients in the US is now seen by an Indian doctor” and “40 percent of hotel rooms are owned and managed by Indian-Americans”, he said, underscoring, “it is a very important contribution”.


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