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Senators welcome Indian envoy on Capitol Hill

india Updated: Jul 29, 2009 16:39 IST

IANS
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About two dozen leading senators cutting across the political divide rubbed shoulders with leading Indian Americans from across the US to welcome Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar on Capitol Hill in a gesture that reflected the growing political and strategic importance of the bilateral relatioship.

Shankar, who took over as ambassador in May, was making her first visit to the seat of the US Congress.

Senate majority leader Harry Reed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman were among those who dropped by as Senate India Caucus leaders dilated on the importance of the relationship between the two great countries at the event Tuesday.

Chris Dodd, who has taken over as the Democratic co-chair of the Caucus from Hillary Clinton after she became secretary of state, said "fellow citizens of Indian descent play such an important role in the economic and cultural life of our country enriching the United States every single day".

"Participation and cooperation between India and the United States will not solve every problem, but we can make a significant difference in these together," he said, listing climate change issues, illness and disease, poverty and issues of bringing peace and stability in the world.

Republican co-chair John Cornyn, who founded the caucus with Hillary Clinton five years ago, said it was formed "because India is the anchor of stability in Asia and our countries are natural allies and partners even though many may not realise this".

"We recognise the power of trade and investment in creating opportunities both in Washington and in India. We also share common concerns about terrorism and extremism and the ideology of hatred which has killed our countrymen and women.

"More and more Americans realise that our countries share common interests and common values," Cornyn said, noting that the strength of the caucus had risen to 37 with one more senator joining Tuesday.

Shankar lavished fulsome praise on the Indian-American community, saying: "We have seen how effectively you served as a window to Indian heritage and progress with a sense of pride and skills and through diversity and pluralism."

"Time and again you have come together to collectively, as you did last year, open new doors to our relationship," she said. "You have been a great bridge of friendship and understanding between our two countries."

Noting that last year alone India had ordered at least $3.5 billion worth of defence equipment from the US, Shankar said the Clinton "visit will open up the defence market and provide new avenue for productive partnership between the two countries".

"India and the US have undertaken a truly remarkable journey and got into territories neither had imagined possible a few years ago, she said, noting: "This journey has transcended political transitions in both countries and has indeed been invigorated by the broad based support it enjoys in both countries."