US presidential race: Clinton campaign woos Indian Americans’ support

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Apr 29, 2016 16:54 IST
Speaking ahead of the primaries in Maryland and four others slated on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta said there would be significant representation of Indian Americans in the Democratic administration if Clinton won. His remarks are extremely significant given that this is the first time in the history of US presidential elections that a major campaign has presented a detailed vision for relations with India. (AP Photo)

The Hillary Clinton campaign on Sunday indicated continuity in US relations with India if the Democratic front-runner is elected president, going back to the start of the upswing in bilateral ties during the administration of her husband President Bill Clinton, which his successors built upon.

As secretary of state, Clinton built a strong relationship with India and her counterpart, the foreign minister, and the prime minister, her campaign chairman John Podesta said at an event to reach out to the Indian American community in Maryland ahead of primaries in the state and four others on Tuesday.

He said Clinton laid the foundation of a relationship with India that he, as advisor to President Obama, was able to work on “to deepen the relationship with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi to get a(n) outcome in the Paris negotiations that respected the development position of India and (yet) made the future to be one of an ambitious goal of producing more clean energy globally and to deal with the challenge of climate change”.

While their terms didn’t overlap, Modi and Clinton did try and strike up a relationship when the prime minister visited the US first time after taking office in 2014. He met Clinton and her husband privately in New York.

Podesta’s remarks Sunday were extremely significant as this is the first time in the history of US presidential elections that a major campaign felt compelled to present a detailed vision for relations with India, which has so far remained a peripheral poll issue, acknowledged, - actually griped about- only for its technology companies shipping away American jobs through outsourcing.

And now extensive remarks by Podesta, who was once a senior advisor to President Obama and chief of staff to the former president Bill Clinton, who ended India’s international isolation over its 1998 nuclear tests with a high-profile visit in 2000.

As Clinton’s campaign chairman, he is also likely to play a large role in staffing her administration if she is elected president.

Podesta indicated there will be a “strong” presence of Indian-Americans in her administration if she wins, holding up as proof her past record when she hired several members from the community during every major position she held, starting as the first lady, then senator and, her last, secretary of state.

Podesta also lashed out at Republican front-runner Donald Trump for his remarks about call centres in India, which some have said were offensive as they seemed to mock Indian accent, when that is not as explicit as claimed.

Responding to questions from reporters Podesta also said Clinton fully supports comprehensive immigration reforms bill, which, he didn’t point out, sought substantially higher cap for H-1B visa (from the present 85,000 annually) that American employers use to hire highly skilled foreign workers.

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