(From Reports by Aziz Haniffa at India Abroad)
The clout and influence of the Indian diaspora is evident in the nation’s capital, as evidenced by so many Indian-American groups in the metropolitan area, said Sen. Tim Kaine (D.-Va.). The former vice presidential candidate made his remarks at the India Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 19, which drew more than 300 to the Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park.
“This is an important community and that’s why you have so many officials who are here because we value so much the Indian American community in Virginia and nationally,” he said. “When I was governor and I had assembled my entire cabinet, a newspaper in India pointed out to me that three of my cabinet members were Indian-American, and I wasn’t even aware of it. They were in my cabinet because they were so fantastic. Many of you know and remember the team that I assembled and you see that in a bipartisan way across the Commonwealth.”
Kaine said it was the linkages between both countries – sharing common values, diversity and pluralism – that makes it imperative that this relationship has always been celebrated in the U.S.
Kaine, the ranking Democrat on both the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, recalled a 2015 visit he made to India as member of both committees to the Mazagon Docks in Mumbai. The Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, is India’s prime shipyard and is where the country’s warships and submarines are manufactured for the Indian Navy.
He said that he and the congressional delegation wanted to see India’s shipbuilding industry because his own state of Virginia is central in U.S. shipbuilding. “I’ll never forget the pride of India’s shipbuilders showing off the Mazagon Docks,” he said. He said upon his return to the U.S. he spoke to the secretary of the Navy telling him Indian naval officials needed to come visit U.S. shipbuilders in Newport News, Virginia and on the Gulf Coast.
Kaine said the Pentagon insisted “we don’t like to take people from foreign nations to our shipyards because of concerns about security and secrecy.” He said he pointed out that “our Indian colleagues and the Indian military does more joint exercises with the United States military than they do with any other nation in the world, and they were so proud and so welcoming to show us their shipbuilding industry, and so the least we can do is have that same relationship with them.”
Within a year, the Pentagon hosted a delegation of India’s key naval officials, he said. They visited Virginia’s shipyards and many others, he said, where some of the most sophisticated U.S. warships and submarines were being assembled. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of the cooperation that we can do together,” he said. “We are now so connected, and that’s what tonight is all about.”
Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Navtej Sarna, in a message to the gathering, noted: “India’s relationship with the United States is substantive and wide-ranging and is set to grow further in strategic and economic spheres. The contribution of the Indian-American community to this relationship has been critical.” Sarna and other embassy officials who had been slated to attend the event were not present as the government of India observed a weeklong period of mourning after the death of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Raj Shah was honored with a Distinguished Service Award at India’s 72nd birthday celebration hosted by a coalition of Indian-American organizations under the aegis of the National Council of Asian American Associations. The gathering of about 300 attendees was held at the Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park and also celebrated Shah’s work for what the keynote speaker called “a commitment to our nation.”