Congressman Suozzi Joins India Caucus, Highlights Growing US-India Relations

Feature and Cover Congressman Suozzi Joins India Caucus Highlights Growing US India Relations

Congressman Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat from New York, has officially joined the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. Suozzi made this announcement at an event hosted by Varinder and Ratna Bhalla, where he was joined by Consul General Binaya Srikanta Pradhan and various community leaders.

At the event, Suozzi recognized Varinder Bhalla for his longstanding service to the community, noting their relationship dates back to the 1990s. He extended a warm welcome to Consul General Pradhan, expressing confidence that Pradhan would have a positive experience in New York.

Addressing the audience, Suozzi highlighted the remarkable talent within the Indian American community. He noted, “There’s such incredible talent in this room alone. In the US, 60 percent do not have a degree from a college, while most Indian Americans graduate from college. A lot of Indians move to Long Island for the better schools there.” Suozzi voiced optimism about the future of US-India relations, calling it crucial for the next 50 years. Despite political divisions in the US, he emphasized his commitment to bipartisan cooperation to strengthen the relationship with India.

“India is going to play a major role in international affairs. It has kind of been in the middle, not only geographically, but certainly in some of the way it’s conducted itself,” Suozzi remarked. He believes that the ties between the US and India will promote democracy and free markets globally. “I’m excited to work on enhancing that relationship and will do everything that I can to try and build [it],” he added. “The India Caucus will be a part of that. I’m actually officially joined the India Caucus, and I will work to get more people.”

Reflecting on the past challenges faced by the Indian American community, Suozzi mentioned the racism from the ‘dot busters’ in the 90s and the discrimination against Sikhs. He acknowledged the efforts of many who fought against this prejudice and helped elevate the community.

Varinder Bhalla, upon receiving the Congressional recognition, attributed his success to his wife’s support.

Consul General Pradhan admitted he was unaware of the extent of Indian Americans’ political involvement until his recent arrival in the US. “But when we started seeing Indian Americans playing well in the politics of this country, we started noticing it,” he said. “I could find many who are in the state assemblies or state senates. When Rep. Suozzi got elected, the Indian media headlined it, saying a friend of India got elected to Congress.”

Pradhan emphasized the intertwined growth of the US-India relationship and the Indian American community, which goes beyond governmental and business engagements. He noted that 45 percent of the 2.5 million Indian Americans reside under the New York consulate’s jurisdiction. “Thousands of Indian students come to the US and we can estimate at least $20 billion is spent by them here,” he stated. Pradhan highlighted the consulate’s focus on trade, technology, tourism, and talent, underscoring the importance of talent in the US-India relationship.

He cited the dramatic growth in trade between India and the US, which has increased from $2 billion three decades ago to around $200 billion today. “We are now cooperating on critical technologies like space exploration, AI, etc,” he added. Pradhan shared an anecdote about establishing an expensive IIT campus in Tanzania, where he served as high commissioner. The Tanzanian president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, inspired by a BBC documentary on Indian American tech CEOs, wanted to replicate the success of IITs in Africa.

Dr. Thomas Abraham, chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), traced the origins of the India Caucus. He noted that although Dilip Singh Saund became the first Congressman of Indian origin in 1957, there was a gap in representation until Bobby Jindal’s tenure from 2005 to 2008. The Indian American community began efforts to establish a Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans in 1993, which eventually became a formal caucus with over 200 members. NJ Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone and Florida Republican Congressman Bill McCollum were the initial co-chairs, with subsequent leadership including Gary Ackerman, Jim Greenwood, Jim McDermott, Ed Royce, Joseph Crawley, and Joe Wilson.

In 2004, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and New York Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton launched the Senate India Caucus. “I was present at the launch at Capitol Hill. It was the first time a country-focused caucus was established in the Senate,” Abraham recalled.

The event saw the presence of distinguished individuals, including Padma Shri awardees Dr. Sudhir Parekh and Dr. Dattathreyudu Nori, along with Rajeev Bhambri and Gary Sikka.

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