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Hillary aligns with Indian Americans

According to a US daily Hillary Clinton is successfully wooing wealthy Indian Americans, many of them business leaders.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2007 02:48 IST
Arun Kumar

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic hopeful for US presidency, has aligned herself with Indian American business leaders and Indian companies "feared" by the labour movement, a leading US daily has alleged.

The former first lady's efforts to bring an Indian firm to Buffalo in New York State, which yielded "about 10" jobs, illustrates the bind she faces, the Los Angeles Times said in a long-winded report on Monday.

Back in 2003, Clinton came to the struggling city of Buffalo to announce some good news with Indian giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), "a company that has helped move US jobs to India while sending thousands of foreign workers on temporary visas to the United States", it recalled.

Joining the TCS chief executive at a downtown hotel, Clinton announced that the company would open a software development office in Buffalo and form a research partnership with a local university. TCS told a newspaper that it might hire as many as 200 people.

The 2003 announcement had clear benefits for the senator and the company: The Tatas received good press and Clinton burnished her credentials as a champion for New York's depressed upstate region, the daily said.

"But less noticed was how the event signalled that Clinton, who portrays herself as a fighter for American workers, had aligned herself with Indian American business leaders and Indian companies feared by the labour movement. Now, as Clinton runs for president, that signal is echoing loudly," The LA Times said.

Clinton is successfully wooing wealthy Indian Americans, many of them business leaders with close ties to their native country and an interest in protecting outsourcing laws and expanding access to worker visas, it said.

Her campaign has held three fundraisers in the Indian American community recently, one of which raised close to $3 million, its sponsor told an Indian news organisation, according to the LA Times.

But in Buffalo, the fruits of the TCS deal have been hard to find, the newspaper alleged. The company, which called the arrangement Clinton's "brainchild," says "about 10" employees work in Washington.

According to the US daily, TCS says most of the new employees were hired from around Buffalo. It declines to say whether any of the new jobs are held by foreigners, who make up 90 per cent of 10,000-strong TCS workforce in the United States.

As for the research deal with the state university that Clinton announced, the daily cites school administrators as saying that three attempts to win government grants with the Tatas for health-oriented research were unsuccessful and that no projects are imminent.

The TCS deal underscores Clinton's bind as she attempts to lead a Democratic Party that is turning away from the free-trade policies of her husband's administration in the 1990s and is becoming more sceptical of trade deals and temporary-worker visas, the LA Times said.

Like many businesses and economists, Clinton says that the United States benefits by admitting high-tech workers from abroad. She backs proposals to increase the number of temporary visas for skilled foreigners, it said.

Some US worker organisations say Clinton cannot claim to support American workers if she is also helping Indian outsourcing companies and proposing more worker visas, the daily said.

"It's just two-faced," said John Miano, founder of the Programmers Guild, one of several high-tech worker organisations that have sprung up as outsourcing has expanded as cited by the Times. "We see her undermining US workers and helping the offshoring business, and then she comes back to the US and says, 'I'm concerned about your pain'."

Among Indian American activists, Clinton's work with the Tatas has been seen as a sign of her independence from outsourcing sceptics within her party - and a break from the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, John Kerry, who lambasted "Benedict Arnold CEOs" for shipping jobs overseas, the daily said.

Clinton, it says, has acknowledged the strains on American workers and called for more job-training programmes. But her words seemed to distance her from those who would end outsourcing. Increased US job losses, she said, could cause Americans to "seek more protection against what they view as unfair competition".

The Tata deal, she said in a 2005 stop in India, exemplified the cooperation that would "help to prevent the kind of negative feelings that could be stirred up" by critics of the global marketplace. She called those critics "short-sighted."

Today, on the campaign trail, Clinton often strikes a different tone. Addressing union audiences and Democratic crowds, she does not highlight her support for expanding foreign-worker visas.

Instead, Clinton often laments a system that, as she told a government workers union last month, rewards companies for "moving our jobs overseas," the Los Angeles Times said.

First Published: Jul 31, 2007 12:01 IST