NEW YORK (TIP): A sharp drop inmembership to the Congressional Caucuson India is sadly indicative of the waninginterest of the Indian-Americancommunity to lobby for closer bilateralties between India and the US.The Congressional Caucus on India andIndian-Americans, which was establishedin 1994 when the ties between the twocountries were still in a nascent phase,had grown to a record 186 members of theUS House of Representatives.For more than a decade theCongressional Caucus was considered tobe a driver of India-US bilateralrelationship, and played a key role in thepassage of the historic civilian nucleardeal.
However, latest figures reveal thisnumber has dropped to about 110Congressmen, which is mainly becausethere has been no fresh drive from theIndian-American community asking theirrepresentatives to join the CongressionalCaucus on India and Indian-Americans.In the last 112th Congress there were 135members. The numbers have mainlydropped either of retirement or defeat ofprevious members.”It is not lack of interest on part oflawmakers. It is the lack of interest on thepart of the Indian-Americans.
Lawmakersneed to be reminded. If asked most of thelawmakers are always willing to obligetheir active constituents,” Ashok Mago, aDallas-based prominent community leader,said.Sampat Shivangi, president of the bipartisanIndian- American Forum forPolitical Education (IAFPE) agreed withthe view as well.”India centric issue like civil US-Indianuclear treaty galvanized the Indian-American community, government ofIndia and Indian Embassy which shot upthe India Congressional Caucus numberaround 185 with united efforts of all thesegroups,” Shivangi said.
“Now there is no burning issue and theenthusiasm has weaned in this process,”he said.In November IAFPE had held aCongressional reception at the Capitol Hillduring which at least three Congressmenannounced their decision to join thecaucus.But in the absence of follow-up fromlocal Indian- American leaders, they areyet to formally join the India Caucus.Shivangi said that there is a need to findother galvanizing issues so that Indian-Americans are motivated to work for thebilateral relationship.
India’s permanent membership to theUN Security Council could be one, henoted.”This just cause if taken seriouslywould galvanize above said groups to uniteand move forward,” he said.The office of Congressman Joe Crowley,one of the founding members of thecaucus and its current co-chair from theDemocratic Party said that he wasworking on increasing the membership ofthe caucus.”There has been a lot of turnover in thepast few years in Congress (such asretirements), and since there are asignificant number of new members in the113th Congress, Congressman Crowleybelieves this is the perfect time to shareinformation about the caucus with hiscolleagues and encourage them to learnmore about the US-India relationship,”Courtney Gidner, Congressman Crowley’sspokesperson said.
“He is definitely focused working atgetting a lot more members to join, and isexcited to make it happen,” Gidner said.In the new Congress, Dr Ami Bera, theonly Indian- American lawmaker in thecurrent Congress, and Tulsi Gabbard, theonly Hindu ever elected to the US Congresshave announced their decision to join theCongressional Caucus for India andIndian-Americans.A fresh drive for new membership isexpected to be launched in March, butMago argued it cannot be successful unlessIndian-Americans from across the nationcome out and support it and ask theirrepresentatives to join the caucus.
Refraining from giving reasons for thissharp drop in the caucus membership,Indian Ambassador to the US NirupamaRao listed out the immense contributionthat India caucus has made instrengthening India US bilateralrelationship.”Over the years, the India Caucuses inboth Houses of Congress have beenincreasingly engaged in pushing forward asubstantive agenda of India-USpartnership, taking up specific issues ofcooperation and common interest fromtime to time, and providing strength andsubstance to the relationship between ourtwo countries,” Rao said.