A Republican congressman mistook two senior Obama administration officials testifying at a House of Representative hearing on relations with India, for Indians.
Both Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state, and Arun Kumar, assistant secretary for commerce, are indeed Indian-born, but have long since stopped being Indian.
But Congressman Curt Clawson missed that somehow. He thought they were Indian government officials, and began by trying to make them feel at home.
“I am familiar with your country, I love your country,” said Clawson, a freshman elected to the House for the first time this year with Tea Party support, to the officials on Thursday.
He went to school in Nagarjuna, he said, and his favourite foreign films were those shot at Telugu Film Nagar in Hyderabad. And he loved Chennai and Hyderabad.
And that he has invested extensively in India.
That was Clawson’s opening statement. Every member on the panel gets to make an opening statement at these hearings typically, and is then allotted time later for questions.
If he had somehow overlooked the list of witnesses, he should have figured out when they were introduced by the panel chairman Steve Chabot, also a Republican.
But when Clawson’s turn came to question the witnesses, he picked up from where he left. Stressing the need for economic reforms in India, he said: “Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good paying jobs in the US, I would like our capital to be welcomed there … so that both sides are on the same territory.”
“And I ask (for) cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing,” he added.
“Can I have that?”
A long pause followed. Then Biswal replied: “I think your question is to the Indian government. We certainly share your sentiments and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the US government.”
“Of course,” said the congressman, probably recognizing the officials for who they really were. “I am asking for your opinion on how they (THEY — the Indian government?) view…”