Washington is abuzz as US lawmakers recognise that Prime Minister Modi's arrival is a moment of great significance. US lawmakers will meet with Modi to strengthen economic and security ties and make up for years of failed and misguided policies that could and should have been rectified by the US Department of State in advance of India's election.
As US lawmakers work to restore our country's credibility, I am hopeful that "good days are coming," as Modi put it after his historic win. India is a vital partner - so vital to US interests that I am disappointed that the Administration has only now identified India as one of its top four priorities. In my mind, India should be our top priority if we are serious about regional stability and our own security in the Asia-Pacific region. Prime Minister Modi will play a key role in promoting and securing democracy in Asia as US leadership has run amuck with Administration after Administration focusing on the Middle East at the expense of a region where two-thirds of the world's population resides and which includes seven of the world's ten largest standing militaries, five of the world's declared nuclear nations, two of the three largest economies, the largest democracy, the world's busiest international sea lanes, and nine of the ten largest ports.
Although I support and appreciate our need to focus on Europe and the Middle East given the complexities in those regions, I am disappointed that the United States has not devoted the same time, attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific region where we are faced with unique and complex challenges that may affect the globe in more important ways. But, I have every confidence that Modi will lead in a way we have not.
To his credit, Modi has not let his personal feelings come in the way of what is best for India or the world. In Washington, he is expected to focus talks on defence and trade. Ahead of his visit, I applaud Modi for taking a courageous stand when it comes to food security. I do not believe any country should sacrifice food security just because developed nations are pushing a different agenda at the expense of the poorest of the poor, and it is regretful that the United States is trying to bully India on this issue. Modi is right to hold fast to his position that trade reform measures must address India's food security concerns and the United States is wrong to press India to settle for anything less than a WTO pact that includes a permanent agreement.
With trade between India and the United States over $63 billion in 2013, I commend Modi's stand for inclusive growth and development for all, and for conceptualizing the Vibrant Gujarat brand which has meaningfully contributed to India's growth. What began as an investors summit has now evolved into a platform for knowledge sharing and social and business transformation.
I applaud Sanjay Puri, CEO of the Alliance for US-India Business (AUSIB), for the prominent work he did to bring Vibrant Gujarat to the attention of US lawmakers at a time when Modi was Chief Minister. Puri was the first to advocate on Capitol Hill for Vibrant Gujarat and, as a result of his advocacy, Vibrant Gujarat has been made part of the Congressional Record for historical purposes. Congressional Record statements are made part of US history and may be accessed by present and future generations. The inclusion of Vibrant Gujarat in the Congressional Record is a testament to Modi's vision to take India forward.
As US lawmakers begin the hard work of making up for the State Department's delays, I do commend the Obama Administration for trying to fast-track US-India relations since Modi's triumphant victory. In the first 100 days of the Modi government, President Obama has sent three Cabinet members to India. He has also announced a new US Ambassador to India. Although I question the Administration's intentions, it is my sincere hope that the Administration will get to the point.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was wrong to recommend a visa denial and ought to be held accountable for using religion to divide rather than unite nations. USCIRF is not an elected body and does not represent the views of the American people. It is downright time for the United States of America to apologize.
(Eni FH Faleomavaega is a Member of Congress representing the US Territory of American Samoa in the US House of Representatives. He is one of the longest-serving and most senior Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is the first Asia Pacific American in US history to serve as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. He currently serves as Ranking Member.)
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