The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized the 75th Anniversary of the Independence of India/Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, September 21st, 2022, where key US Senators and Congressmen participated and stressed the need to strengthen Indo-US relationship and praised the contributions and achievements of Physicians of Indian Origin and the larger Indian American community.
A strong India means a strong US, influential US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said, as they pledged to work towards strengthening the relationship between the two largest democratic countries of the world at a time when the world is undergoing several changes and facing numerous challenges. Attended by dozens of leaders of AAPI and several community leaders, a first of its kind, the India Day on Capitol Hill was a celebration of India as a nation that is a model and strong democracy and a fast-growing economy that has taken a central place on world stage.
Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of AAPI Legislative Committee, who has played a lead role in organizing the India Day celebrations on Capitol Hill said, Indian-Americans have a key role to play in the India-US relationship. “It is a proud moment for every Indian, living in every part of the world to see the progress that our motherland has achieved since its independence 75 years ago.” Dr. Shivangi, a member of the National Advisory Council, Center for National Mental Health Services referred to India which has now become the fifth largest economic superpower in the world even surpassing India’s Colonial Masters, the UK, France, and Germany.
Quoting a White House Press Release last month, Dr. Shivangi said, “The QUAD agreement is a testimony of this the role for the promotion of human freedom and dignity, and ways to restrain the Chinese expansionism that is not respecting international laws, friendships, and relationships. “The United States sees India as an indispensable partner and confident in a relationship the two countries are pursuing their own national interests in Ukraine. The US-India strategic partnership is grounded in their commitments to the advancement of the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
In his welcome address, Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI, “India @ 75! It is a milestone filled with feelings of sense of pride and joy for all the accomplishments and progress we have made, while preserving our integrity, unity, core values of freedoms, democracy and respect for diverse cultures and the groups that live and thrive in our beloved motherland. India has made great strides in various sectors of economy lifting over 270 million out of poverty in the past decade or so.
Referring to the unprecedented growth of India, Dr. Kolli said, “It is the 5th largest economy in the world. In 1947 Maternal Mortality Rate was 2,000 for 100,000 births and Infant Mortality rate was 150 and now MMR is 150 and IMR is 27.6 in 2021. In the higher education sector India now has 1,043 universities and 42,000 colleges vs 27 universities and 578 colleges in 1950 and literacy rate is close to 75 % now as opposed to 20% in 1950. The number of medical colleges grew from mere 28 in 1950 to over 612 now in 2022. These accomplishments by themselves are worthy of a grand celebration, but India accomplished all this progress as a thriving democracy, with its steadfast commitment to freedoms with equity and inclusion of all faiths and creeds is a remarkable success story to be cherished and shared. We are proud to be part of this historic celebration of India on Capitol Hill, where we will have an opportunity to exchange views and express our concerns with the dozens of US Lawmakers, who will come to be part of the celebrations.”
“I am here today to say, thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat said. Recalling his visits to India, he said, he saw in action “the greatness of the largest democracy in the world in full action.” While lauding the contributions of physicians of Indian Origin, “Had it not been for the Indian community that came to West Virginia to provide their services, most of rural West Virginia would not have health care today.” While observing that a major section of healthcare service in the rural US is provided by Indian American Doctors.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican Senator representing the state of Mississippi stressed the importance of having strong relations between India and the United States. “The relationship between the United States and India is mutually beneficial for both of the countries and not just in the field of medicine and technology,” she said.
Senator Shelley Capito from West Virginia noted how the Indian American community is playing a key role in enriching the cultural experience of her state. “I live in Charleston, West Virginia, a small rural state. If we did not have any Indian American doctors, we would not have any kind of quality healthcare, we would not have the breadth and the depth and the richness of our communities that we have,” she said.
India’s Ambassador to the US Hon. Taranjit Singh, in his keynote address said that there is a close connection between the two countries and today it is driven by the leadership of the two largest democracies of the world. Indian American doctors have an especially key role to play in the India-US relationship, Sandhu said. “India today is one of the fastest-growing, major, emerging economies in the world,” he said. “We have such a vibrant and dynamic Indian American community represented in this country. The success of the Indian American community as professionals – doctors, technocrats, scientists and, entrepreneurs, has been an inspiration to many of us in India. And today, support of this community is vital to us” in forging a much stronger relationship with the US.
India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts, he said. Referring to the fact that within one month’s period, more than half a dozen senior Indian Ministers are visiting the US and a similar visit would happen from the US to India, he said. “This is a reflection of the relationship between India and the United States,” he pointed out.
Congressman Joe Wilson, a GOP lawmaker and co-chair of Indian Caucus in Congress, shared about his fond memories with India, going back to the days when his dad served in India during the World War. India and America – nations which respect individuals, freedom, human dignity, private property, and believe in free markets – have the potential to build on shared values, he said. “India has a major role to play in world peace, stabilizing world,” he added.
Rep. Michael Guest from Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, said, “We are so blessed to have you. I want to thank you for coming to the US from a great civilization.” Lauding the great contributions of AAPI fraternity, he said, “You reach out to when people are in crisis. You put yourself in arms way to serve your fellowmen, to serve others, especially during Covid.” Describing Indo-US partnership as “strategic relationship” the Congressman said, “We work together to protect freedom and democracies. We work together for the greater good of humanity.”
Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna from the California said, “US India relationship is more critical than ever for the world.” He said, “India should not be subject to (CAATSA) sanctions because of its historic relationship with Russia.” Praising the recent messaging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Russian leadership, Khanna said India can play a critical role in a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian conflict. He referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, had told the Russian leader that “today’s era is not of war.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first and only Indian-American woman in the US Congress, said India and the US, despite being a world apart, have shared a very unique and important relationship over the years. India and the US have made tremendous strides in the promotion of public health. With the help of more than USD 200 million in aid from the US, India surpassed an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19 by administering two billion doses of vaccines, the second most of any country in the world, she said.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said the Indian American community needs to make its presence known. Imploring more Indian Americans to run for office, Krishnamoorthi told the Capitol Hill gathering, “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.” India, he said, has done a lot in the last 75 years. “I want to talk a little bit about its (India’s) greatest export. Its greatest export is you – Indian Americans who are four million strong. They are the fastest-growing ethnic minority in America. They are the most prosperous ethnic minority and the most well educated.”
Congressman Ted Deutch said, India and the US are strategic partners and Indian Americans are the key assets in the India-US relationship. “We are not only strategic partners, but we are friends,” he said. Referring to the NRI community, he said, “This is the group in the US, of all the ethnic groups, with the highest income and the highest level of education.”
“Indian American physicians have made vital contributions to the health care field,” said Dr. Dr. Kishore Challa, Co-Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee. “As physicians, we provide critical care to patients from rural & urban communities across the Country. Indian American doctors are playing a critical role in filling the nationwide physician shortage. The India Day on Capitol Hill is a unique opportunity for AAPI members to be part of the decision-making process on matters related to healthcare and advocate for stronger and closer ties between India and the United States.”
Dr. Anjana Samadder, President-Elect of AAPI said, “AAPI has been serving India and contributing to the effective healthcare delivery in the US and in India. In keeping with the mission of AAPI, the celebrations on the Hill provided us with a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians share our concerns with the Lawmakers in pursuit of our aspirations in matters relating to professional and community affairs.”
“The historic 75th India Independence Day celebrations on Capitol Hill was an effective Forum to help renew our friendship with US administration under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and brief the Congressional leaders on issues that are important to us,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI.
“AAPI’s India Day celebrations on Capitol Hill helped members rekindle and renew our energy in bringing up the issues to the attention of national policymakers and leaders of the US Congress on Capitol Hill,” said Dr. Sumul Rawal, Treasurer of AAPI.
A reception and dinner hosted by Honorable Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, with several dignitaries at the Indian Embassy was the grand finale to the day-long event at the nation’s capital. India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts. “The relationship is very strong,” noting India and the US are connected in culture, democratic traditions, entrepreneurship, and innovation. “And we are connected because the Indian American community in the US is so very strong,” Ambassador Sandhu told an enthusiastic audience said.
In his vote of thanks, Dr. Ravi Kolli expressed gratitude to Dr. Sampath Shivangi, for organizing the event and bringing powerful senators and Congress Members and giving a forum and opportunity for AAPI members to participate in conversations with them. “Both the Senators form Mississippi referring him as the ‘Rockstar of Mississippi’ is the true reflection of his leadership and contributions at the national level.” He said. “I deeply appreciate Dr. Kishore Challa for personally arranging for both the Senators of WV to attend, both of them spoke so highly of Dr. Challa and his leadership in healthcare matters in the state of West Virginia and nationally and how he was instrumental in making Telemedicine Audio Service approved by Federal Agencies during the pandemic.”
“AAPI has been seeking to collectively shape the best health care for everyone in the US, with the physicians at the helm, caring for the medically underserved as we have done for several decades when physicians of Indian origin came to the US in larger numbers,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli. For more information on AAPI and its several noble initiatives benefitting AAPI members and the larger society, please visit: www.aapiusa.org