Rice flayed on 'US consulate in S India'
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has nixed the idea of opening a new US consulate in southern India, said Congressman Joseph Crowley, a former chair of the India Caucus who has been pressing for a consulate in either Bangalore or Hyderabad.
Testifying at the House International Relations Committee on Thursday to get her budget for the State Department approved, Rice apparently "backed away" from the idea of opening a new brick-and-mortar US consulate in southern India, said Crowley, former Democratic chair of the India Caucus.
Last year, during consideration of the State Department Authorization Bill, Representative Crowley offered a successful amendment to create a new consulate in either Bangalore or Hyderabad to serve southern India.
At the annual testimony on Thursday before the House International Relations Committee, Crowley argued for a regular consular office saying it would be more convenient for Indians travelling to the United States, and for US businesses based in Bangalore and Hyderabad who have had to send employees to Chennai in order to get visas for meetings or trainings in the US.
In response to a question by Crowley on the expected date of a new consulate to be opened, Rice instead promoted further diplomatic visits, electronic visa programmes and other aspects of her "transformational diplomacy" initiative that requires more US personnel in countries like India and China.
Rice indicated opening a brand new consulate was unlikely because of budgetary constraints and said she was working with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in developing new ideas to serve these other cities.
"While I commend Secretary Rice for thinking outside the box in bringing US diplomats into the field and using technology to cut the visa red-tape, I am disappointed that she is not excited to support the construction of a bricks and mortar consulate in southern India," asserted Crowley, calling it a "serious mistake" not to do so.