Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Indian-Americans no longer on the political sidelines

Indian-Americans no longer on the political sidelines

Author: Khalid Hasan
Publication: Daily Times (Pakistani Newspaper)
Date: December 22, 2003
URL: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_21-12-2003_pg7_49

The Indian-American community, unlike its Pakistani counterpart, is no longer "sitting on the political sidelines," but is organising, lobbying Capitol Hill, collecting campaign funds and receiving attention from US politicians.

According to a report in the Washington Times Saturday, Sanjay Puri, executive director of the Virginia-based US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), claims that "Howard Dean was the first to send us a position paper" and that "we sent Dean's comments out to our members. It was written up in the Indian press. He was very good on Kashmir and immigration. I'm told (that) after we sent it out to our members, his Web site got a lot of hits and donations from Indian Americans."

The Pakistani-American community has done little in the past year to match or emulate the Indian effort. During the time here of former ambassador, a sustained effort was in evidence to encourage the community to come forward and to press it into the service of Pakistan's causes. A number of "hits," including the successful passage of the Brownback amendment, resulted from this close collaboration that existed between the two. However, since the arrival of the new team at the Pakistan embassy in August last, this effort has flagged. Community leaders complain that they are seldom, if ever, taken into confidence by embassy officials or galvanised into using their influence to promote the national cause. The attitude of the official is "cold and bureaucratic."

The Indian-Americans, on the other hand, have been most active and have established excellent relationships with various influential American lobbying groups, especially the pro-Israeli lobby. Puri told the Washington Times that while Indian-American doctors, professionals and business owners have been asked for money by politicians for years, they rarely asked a candidate's position on issues of interest to the Indian community while making the donation.

Set up 14 months ago, USINPAC has 27,000 members among the estimated two million Indian Americans living in the United States, an affluent and educated population that is growing by 10 percent a year.

Puri said 40,000 Indian physicians are practising medicine in the United States and some 60 percent of the small hotels in the United States are owned by Indians. In addition, Indian information technology (IT) specialists, who have created more than 1,000 IT businesses and hundreds of thousands of IT jobs in the United States, are "everywhere" in the US computer industry. "The Indian population will double by the next census," he said. "And we are slowly taking over - in a good way - the hospitality industry. Indians are hard-working people, fulfilling the American dream."

Puri, speaking of his model, said, "The Jewish lobbying groups work hard. They participate. They show up. They are a successful model. We'll do the same. Our community is on the move, so far untapped, but we are working our way toward recognition." The report said

"USINPAC has become a force to reckon with." The Indian caucus in the House of Representatives has more than 175 members. USINPAC held a very successful Capitol Hill reception on 19 July, with several Jewish lobbying organisations, to raise awareness of international terrorism. "We have a consensus on terrorism, whether it is at the World Trade Centre, the Parliament in Delhi, or on the streets of Jerusalem. Terrorism has to be addressed and stopped," Puri said.

Sen Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, met USINPAC last year and asked the organisation to identify Indian Americans qualified for federal judgeships. Indian Americans should "continue to get involved in the process, continue to break down barriers and reach out to political leaders in both political parties," he told the group at a meeting on Capitol Hill. USINPAC also takes credit on its web site for helping defeat the candidacy of Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, who in January sought the chairmanship of the House International Relations Committee subcommittee on South Asia. "Burton has long tried to damage US-India relations," the Web site contends.

Asked by the newspaper if the organisation has the breakdown of Hindu and Muslim membership and how that might affect the issues USINPAC tackles, Puri is said to have "bristled," saying, "We are a political organisation, not a religious organisation. Our members are Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Jain."

An Indian embassy official told the Washington Times that while the embassy sometimes helps educate USINPAC about issues by providing information that is not always readily available or public, USINPAC should not be seen as an arm of the government or embassy. "They are independent. We do not jointly coordinate activities," he said. Puri said the community was moving towards the Republican party.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements