Call it the “Mawdi” effect. A new Indian ambassador usually gets a reception from the India caucus — a non-official congressional group — on Capitol Hill days or weeks after taking over. That’s routine, and expected.
But it’s rare for the House foreign affairs committee to host a reception for an ambassador — any ambassador — as it did Wednesday evening for Ambassador Arun Singh.
The committee, which controls the purse on US government’s foreign policy initiatives and adventures, usually hosts such events for visiting heads of state and government. Singh is merely an ambassador though he pulls significant clout in the city because of his previous assignments here — last as deputy chief for mission for around four years.
Around 15 congressmen showed up, across party lines, led by powerful House foreign affairs committee chairman Ed Royce, a Republican popular with Indian-Americans.
They spoke glowingly of relations with India and, of course, Prime Minister Mawdi, as some of them, specially co-chair of the India caucus George Holding call him. Holding is from North Carolina, where the vowel “o” gets drawn out into the deliciously typical southern drawl, which starts around there geographically.
Nearly every other congressman pronounced the name the same way, with minor variations — Mawdi, Moddi and Modi (a sharp 'd' in contrast to the soft 'd' of Modi in Hindi).
The India caucus is the largest country-specific caucus in the US congress with support from both Republicans and Democrats, irrespective of the party in power in Delhi. And they are excited about the new government in Delhi.
Nearly 40 of them attended Modi’s Madison Square Garden event last year, and some of them hung around gamely giving interviews to visiting Indian reporters.
Royce, who played a critical role in the vote on the India-US nuclear deal, was among them. At the Wednesday reception he stayed around for selfies and photos with Indian-Americans.
PM Modi has a standing offer from Royce’s senior colleague House speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of US congress at a time of his choosing.
Modi was expected to address one during his state visit to DC last fall, but it couldn’t be arranged as most lawmakers were out campaigning for their re-election.
Boehner had then extended Modi an open invitation. Mawdi will, some day.