India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US will put the spotlight on the growing profile of the about 3-million strong Indian-American community. Cutting across castes, provinces and religions, around 20,000-odd Indian-Americans will be travelling from all over America for the largest-ever civic reception in honour of the Indian leader at the iconic Madison Square Garden.
In this interview with Mr Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network, Ronen Sen, India’s former ambassador to the US, speaks glowingly about the multifarious success stories of Indian-Americans in their adopted homeland and their role as bridge-builders in bringing the two vibrant democracies together in an arc of intersecting national interests.
Q) This is the first time an Indian prime minister will be given a public reception hosted by the Indian-American community. How do you see the role of the Indian-American community in building bridges between the two vibrant democracies?
A) The Indian-American community plays a critically important role. And this will be a coming out event for them. This is not the first time they have been mobilised. The first large-scale mobilisation at a grassroots level happened in lobbying their Congressman and senators for a cause they felt was very dear to them –- the civil nuclear deal. Across the board, and beyond political affiliation, not just American political affiliation but also their affiliation or their sympathies to political parties in India. This transcended it all. It brought them together. It sent a very important message.
The 3-million strong Indian-American community in the US, i.e. US citizens of Indian origin and a million strong Indian citizens with permanent residency in the United States play a role more than their numbers indicate. Why? Because if you look at this community in terms of educational accomplishment, they are higher than any other ethnic group. They are also the lowest in some areas like crime. And in new developments, and I think this will grow further, you have representatives in local governments, governors, members in the US Congress. You will shortly have an Indian-American ambassador to India. If you look at universities, business, doctors, lawyers and hoteliers, the number of Indians is very large, therefore their impact is much more than their numbers. I felt that tangibly when the civil nuclear deal was pending in the Congress. You will see that becoming more and more evident with each passing years. They are robust bridge builders.
And they are loyal to the flag to which they have sworn their allegiance. Why did they push the civil nuclear deal? Not only because it is good for India, because it is equally good for the US. It is of mutual benefit and is going to be good for the world. They thought it is a historic wrong that has been corrected. They are convinced that what meets the core national interest of the US, to which they are committed, coincides with the national interest of India.
A) The success of the Indian-American community in the US, in a sense, reflects the uniqueness of the relations between Indian and the United States. We have a common colonial history, we are democracies, but we are not just two democracies: we are both countries with federal policies, both incredibly diverse in every sense of the world. We are incredibly diverse in terms of religion culture, cuisine, languages, costumes, interest, ideas, and family values –across the board. Unlike our other strategic partners, except perhaps one or two of them, this is not an intergovernmental relationship, it is not a relationship which is determined by cabinets meetings, it is made in board rooms, universities campuses, in laboratories, and family dining rooms. It is a people-to-people relationship. Virtually, every middle class family has some member in America and that number is growing. This community is more than a bridge; this is more dynamic and is growing in terms of importance with each passing year.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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