By: Sunita Sohrabji
Rep. Ami Bera, co-chair of the House India Caucus, along with Sen. Mark Warner, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, and Rep. Joe Crowley will join President Barack Obama on his three-day visit to India, beginning Jan. 25.
At press time, the White House had not released the names of the Congressional delegation traveling with the president. Staffers for Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and former chair of the House India Caucus, could not confirm whether the congressman was also joining the delegation to India.
The president’s historic visit represents the first time a U.S. president has been the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally extended the invitation to Obama when the two world leaders met in Washington, D.C. last fall (see separate story).
Bera, who was appointed to co-chair the Congressional Caucus on India and India Americans last December, said in a press statement Jan. 20: “As the son of Indian immigrants, I am extremely honored to be a part of this historic trip to India with the president.”
The Democrat from Sacramento, Calif. — who is serving his second term in office — is the sole Indian American in Congress; his family hails from Rajkot, Gujarat.
Bera said he hoped the three-day visit would grow economic and strategic partnerships between the two countries, including creating new markets for California and Sacramento products.
“As the oldest and largest democracies in the world, our countries have many common interests and I hope this will be another step toward realizing the full potential of the U.S.-India partnership,” he said.
Six months after his first victory, Bera made an eight-day trip to India in August 2013, visiting with leaders in business, education and agriculture. During the trip, the congressman forged a relationship between the University of California, Davis Postharvest Technology Center and the Confederation of Indian Industries to collaborate on research related to food storage.
“UC Davis is the top agricultural center in the world, with cutting-edge research. India is struggling to feed its population. Forty percent of food is lost because of storage issues,” Bera told India-West shortly after returning from India. The congressman also met Pallam Raju, national Minister of Human Resources Development and Karnataka Higher Education Minister R.V. Deshpande to discuss how universities in the U.S. could partner with Indian universities, particularly to develop community colleges.
“India does not currently have a community college system and doesn’t have the capacity to educate everyone it wants to educate,” Bera told this publication, adding the U.S. could help India build an infrastructure for a community college system.
Crowley, former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and India Americans who led the enactment of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2005, also said it was an honor to travel with the president on the historic visit to India.
“The principles of India’s democratic constitution serve as a shining example for the world, and what better time for the president of the United States to make this historic visit than to join India in celebrating its Republic Day,” said Crowley in a press statement Jan. 20.
“I look forward to robust discussions on how we can open the next chapter in U.S.-India relations,” said the Democrat congressman from New York, adding: “I strongly believe that the United States-India relationship should and will serve as a key building block of U.S. foreign policy in the decades ahead.”
“Working together, the United States and India can be a transformational force in meeting global challenges,” he said.
Warner’s office did not issue a statement about his travel to India. Over the past week, the Democrat senator from Virginia has expressed concern that India may buy drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – from other countries if the U.S. drags its feet on the sale. At an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Warner expressed the hope that unmanned aircraft would be included as part of a broad U.S. push to expand defense ties with India, but said he was not aware of any specific initiatives to be announced during Obama’s visit, reported Reuters.