Pallone Accepts Award from Indo-American Society
Bombay, India--- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. gave the following speech tonight at a dinner hosted by the Indo-American Society.
I want to thank the Indo-American Society for inviting me to Mumbai to receive this award tonight. I have spent a lot of time over the last 10 years trying to improve relations between the United States and India, and I know this effort has been pushed by good people in both countries like yourselves.
10 years ago I founded the India Caucus in the U.S. Congress because I felt that relations between the U.S. and India needed to be improved, and there was a real opportunity to do so because of the presence of a large Indian diaspora community in the U.S. The idea was to empower Indian-Americans politically so they would demand that their Congressmen join the Caucus and work towards improved relations. It has been an unqualified success primarily because of the Indian-American communitys involvement, but also because of people in India like yourselves who pressured your own government to move towards better ties with the U.S.
The India Caucus is the largest member caucus in the U.S. Congress. It is bipartisan. It continues to grow. This week the Democratic co-chair, Congressman Joseph Crowley, is visiting India with at least 10 other Congressmen, none of who have been here before. Meanwhile, Indian-American organizations like the Indian American Friendship Council, whose president is Dr. Krisha Reddy of Los Angeles, continue to found new chapters in the U.S. These chapters in over 30 states work with the Caucus on issues both foreign and domestic.
Indian-Americans themselves are not only working on political campaigns, but running for office themselves. In my Congressional district, which has the largest number of Indian-Americans, we have several local elected officials of Indian descent, and for the first time two years ago, elected someone to the state legislature. Indian-Americans are routinely running for state office, including most recently the Republican candidate for Governor of Louisiana.
What has changed in terms of U.S./India policy because of all this effort? Simply stated--a lot. I would like to talk about changes in defense policy, economic and trade cooperation, U.S. policy towards India by reference to Pakistan, Indias world role and finally the new trilateral relationship between India, the U.S. and Israel.
The most rapid change in the last few years has been in the area of defense, security and anti-terrorism efforts. Much of the difference occurred in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Prior to that time Pentagon officials were beginning to realize Indias strategic significance oftentimes by reference to conflict in the Middle East or military buildup in China. Joint military exercises were taking place and intelligence exchanges existed with regard to threats from terrorism. However, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration stepped up these activities and began to see India as an important ally for strategic purposes.
The stepped up activity has manifested itself in important ways--most notably in terms of arm sales such as radar equipment and third party activities such as the approval for Israel to sell India the Phalcon Airborne warning system. Last month, there was the announcement of a joint defense agreement to share classified military research.
However, the new defense relationship is best manifested in Americas tacit acquiescence to Indias nuclear program. Unlike Pakistan, which is seen by the U.S. as a nuclear pariah, Indias nuclear weapons program is now praised for being essentially home grown, defensive, and under strict civilian controls. While the Bush administration may pay lip service to the notion that India should not be a nuclear power, no one in Washington really has a problem with it anymore.
There have been significant changes in the area of economic cooperation and trade as well over the last few years, but in this case, all is not necessarily rosy for the future.
The members of the India Caucus, including myself, have tried to encourage more trade with India, in part by identifying key areas where there is the most potential. The purpose of my trip to India this week under the auspices of the Asian Indian Chamber of Commerce, a New Jersey diaspora organization based in my Congressional district, is to develop economic opportunities between our two countries.
But, I would be less than honest if I didnt express disappointment with the pace of trade between the U.S. and India, and even more so, to express my concern over its one-sided approach.
The amount of trade between the U.S. and India has picked up in the last few months after languishing during previous years as the entire world experienced an economic slump. However, there are a lot more exports from India than imports to India.
The largest cause of concern is the so-called outsourcing--loss of U.S. jobs to India, which is accelerating and increasing at a rapid rate in many sectors, most notably information technology and health care. I am not a supporter of outsourcing. Contrary to statements made by Indian leaders, most notably Prime Minister Vajpayee, I dont see outsourcing as beneficial to the U.S. in the short or long-term. But, regardless of your views on the economic value of outsourcing for the U.S. or India, I will tell you emphatically that it is hurting U.S./ India relations, particularly with Congress.
My plea during this trip is to ask Indian officials--business and political leaders--not to promote outsourcing as a panacea. The average U.S. citizen will resent that type of promotion and has good reason to do so because of the loss of American jobs. What I would ask you to do instead is to promote trade as a two-way street. India has the potential to be a huge market for U.S. goods, and the Indian government and business community needs to lower tariffs and provide a better environment for U.S. exports.
Indian companies can also invest and create jobs in the U.S. and some already have. My sponsoring group, the Asian Indian Chamber of Commerce, will be touring the Ranbaxy pharmaceutical facilities in New Delhi on Friday. We are highlighting Ranbaxy because they have opened a plant in my Congressional district and have created a number of jobs. I will be meeting in Ahmedabad on Thursday with representatives from two other companies, Claris Life Sciences and Alembic, which have expressed interest in similar type investments in the U.S.
It is extremely important for the Indian diaspora in the U.S. to stress the potential for new job creation in the U.S. by Indian investment in America, as well as sale of U.S. products in India. Little is heard of these activities by the American people, who increasingly see young, bright Indian nationals in a negative light for taking away their jobs.
From an overall policy perspective, the U.S. government is seeking to remove trade barriers with India and to encourage an economic trade union in South Asia comparable to the European Union. Developments in the last few days in Islamabad by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation towards a free trade agreement will obviously be encouraged in Washington.
This is probably a good time for me to spend a few moments discussing how U.S. policy towards India in reference to Pakistan has changed considerably in the last few years. Most importantly, the U.S. no longer views its policy with India in reaction to Pakistan. The two have been decoupled in the last decade. Congress and the Bush administration understand that India is more important, is the leader in South Asia, and plays a significant world role.
That does not mean that the U.S. will support India against Pakistan because the U.S. main goal is peace between the two countries. Ultimately, the U.S. would probably like to see India, Pakistan and the rest of South Asia in some sort of defense pact like NATO, linked to the U.S. But everyone in Washington realizes that cant happen until relations are normalized between India and Pakistan.
For this reason, the recent thaw in hostilities between the two countries is viewed by the U.S. very favorably, and Americans have the highest respect for Prime Minister Vaypayees overtures to Pakistan that have led to a cease fire, resumption of transportation links and hopefully direct negotiations between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the regional meetings in Islamabad.
The U.S. does not intend to be a third party negotiator over Kashmir, but will continue to engage both sides as well as other major powers to push for direct negotiations between India and Pakistan. In addition, President Bush will continue to encourage President Musharraf to end support of cross border terrorism in Kashmir.
Much of my activity in Congress over the past few years has been devoted to getting the administration, both Clinton and Bush, to understand the hypocrisy of the Pakistani government with regard to terrorism against India, its third party transfers of nuclear weapons and its lack of progress towards democracy.
The recent reports relative to Pakistans transfers of nuclear technology first to North Korea, then to Iran, and now likely to Libya, have made me reiterate my request to President Bush to reimpose Symington sanctions against Pakistan. The U.S. should not be providing Pakistan with military aid as long as the third party transfer of nuclear weapons continues.
In addition, the Indian government needs to address the situation in Kashmir more effectively, particularly with regard to the Kashmiri Pandits. I have championed their cause in the U.S. and will be meeting with their representatives in New Delhi on Sunday. My biggest concern is that the state government in Jammu and Kashmir has shown apathy towards the Pandits, and not encouraged their return to the Kashmir Valley as promised. The federal government must step in to help them.
I mentioned before that the Bush administration respects Indias role as a world leader. Opportunities to provide American support in that regard clearly exist, for example, in Indias quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council. I have introduced a resolution in Congress to express U.S. support for Indias request, and hope that we can continue to gather support for it in Washington. The U.S. would also like to see India play a greater peacekeeping role in the world, for example, in Iraq.
The most interesting development in terms of U.S./ India foreign policy relates to the new trilateral relationship between the U.S., India and Israel. The India Caucus, including myself, have encouraged this in Congress and it has already shown its success when we received support from the Israeli lobby for a provision conditioning U.S. aid to Pakistan on progress against cross border terrorism in Kashmir. I met with the Indian Ambassador to Israel in Jerusalem last August and discussed how the trilateral relationship has grown in various sectors including defense, trade and research. The Indian diaspora is playing a major role in strengthening this relationship in the U.S.
I would like to conclude this evening by discussing the overall strength of the U.S./India relationship and once again turn to the Indian diaspora in the U.S. as a source of inspiration.
The U.S./Indian relationship has the potential to remain strong in the future because of philosophical underpinnings that unite our two peoples--specifically, democracy, the rule of law and secularism. As long as our two countries remain committed to these ideals, the atmosphere remains ripe for good relations.
Frankly, I see no breakdown in those principles on either side. Indian democracy leading to possible elections this spring remains strong. The courts in India are more activist than ever. Most importantly, the communal violence that originated in Gujarat seems to have subsided.
The Indian diaspora in the U.S. is playing a greater role in terms of political and community involvement both in the U.S. and India. I have not discussed domestic U.S. issues, but should mention the role of the Indian diaspora in promoting greater access to health care, the passage of hate crimes legislation, and more objective immigration laws.
Here in India, the U.S. based diaspora is promoting similar activities. For example, tomorrow in Bombay I will visit a hospital that has been furnished with medical equipment and supplies by a New Jersey based group called the Share and Care Foundation. On Saturday, I will visit Bhopal to support initiatives to help the victims of the chemical disaster. On Sunday, I will visit the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative headquarters with Kapil Sibal and the Indo-U.S. Parliamentary Forum. Each of these activities has involved India Caucus members and Indian Americans who are supportive of the initiatives.
Overall, after 10 years of the India Caucus in Congress and support of the Indian American community as well as Indian nationals such as yourselves who promote the U.S. in India, the relationship between our countries is strong and has nowhere to go but up.
Thank you for the award and for taking the time to listen to me this evening.