WASHINGTON: A key Senate panel’s approval for the India-US civil nuclear agreement came amid hectic efforts by Indian American community leaders on Capitol Hill to get the deal done before lawmakers break for the Nov 4 elections.
Community leaders from across America gathered here on Tuesday for “A Day of Advocacy” organised by the US-India Friendship Council, an umbrella group of all of the community’s political, social and professional organisations.
“This is part of our Washington Chalo campaign on behalf of the nuclear deal, which is similar to what we did two years ago before the vote on (US enabling law) the Hyde Amendment,” said the group’s coordinator Swadesh Chatterjee.
The community also took out a full-page advertisement in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, urging the US Congress to join 2.3 million “proud Americans of Indian origin – and India and other billion-person economy – in bringing an end to India’s civil nuclear isolation”.
“Ratification of the US-India 123 Agreement will unite the world’s largest and oldest democracies, laying a foundation of mutual trust and respect, and advancing a strong partnership-in commerce, international security, and more,” it said.
Declaring that “the US and India are natural partners – as beacons of multicultural democracy, as free markets, and as the largest English speaking nations on earth”, the advertisement asked lawmakers to “schedule the vote in this Congress, clinch a vital partnership with India”.
The coalition has also sent out a draft letter to Indian Americans around the country to be faxed to their respective senators and representatives, urging them to vote for the nuclear deal.
“As one of the 2.6 million Americans who trace their roots to India, I believe that this historic agreement represents a great opportunity for both the United States and India for further strengthening a strategic relationship between the two great democracies,” says the draft letter.
It notes that “this agreement strikes a fine balance between the United States and India in two ways: The agreement provides for India to gain access to technology which allows it to meet its burgeoning energy demand in an environmentally sustainable manner and help in mitigating carbon emissions and global warming”.
“By having India place strict international safeguards on its reactors, the US can continue to support its non-proliferation interests,” it adds. The deal would also “open up new venues for business of US companies with India and tremendously increase trade between the two countries”.
“Today, I believe the US has a unique window of opportunity to send a vote of confidence to India and the Indian Diaspora in America. This vote is Yes for the approval of the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement,” the draft letter said.
This lobbying follows a similar undertaking by the Indian American community last week under the banner of the Indian American Committee led by Hemant Patel, immediate past president of the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).
The invitees at a Congressional luncheon as part of this lobbying effort included House Foreign Committee Chairman Howard Berman, who has been holding out on calling a session of his panel to speed up the passage of the accord.
Others joining were House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and two former co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Gary Ackerman and Frank Pallone besides a couple of senior US officials.