Gregory Meeks, new head of US congressional body on foreign policy, is a Gandhi acolyte

As a freshman member of the House in 1998, Meeks had co-sponsored a legislation that allowed the Indian embassy to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at a small park across the road. Meeks was chief guest at a Gandhi Jayanti event at the site of the statue last October 2
US Representative Gregory Meeks speaks to the media as he departs a classified intelligence briefing with other members of Congress on the crisis in Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC September 5, 2013.(REUTERS/ FILE)
US Representative Gregory Meeks speaks to the media as he departs a classified intelligence briefing with other members of Congress on the crisis in Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC September 5, 2013.(REUTERS/ FILE)
Updated on Dec 05, 2020 09:48 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington, DC | ByYashwant Raj

Gregory Meeks, who Thursday became the first African-American to head the foreign relations committee of the US House of Representatives, has been a longtime believer in Mahatma Gandhi going back by decades, and he reconnected with its past October 2.

As a freshman member of the House in 1998, Meeks had co-sponsored a legislation that allowed the Indian embassy to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a small park across the road.

Meeks was chief guest at a Gandhi Jayanti event at the site of the statue last October 2.

“Paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi with Congressman @RepGtegoryMeeks, Senior Member of @HouseForeign. Fondly recalled the role of Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Meeks, & @TheBlackCaucus in the establishment of Gandhi Memorial in Washington DC,” Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Indian ambassador to the US, had tweeted at the time.

US civil rights leader Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi and travelled to India in 1959 on a visit that he had described as pilgrimage. Congressman Lewis, who passed away earlier this year, was a close associate of King and tried for years to enact a King-Gandhi Knowledge Initiative Bill, which was passed by the House on Thursday. It is co-sponsored by Ami Bera, an Indian-American lawmaker.

On Thursday, Meeks was elected to head the next House foreign affairs committee, beating Representative Julian Castro.

“The committee under the next Congress will preside over an historic shift in US foreign policy, and there is no shortage of work ahead of us,” Meeks said in a statement after his election.

He added, “This will not be a return to normal, but a leap towards a new way of doing business. We will broaden our scope and outreach to parts of the world we’ve historically overlooked. We will return as partners to our European allies, but we will also need to build new multilateral relationships in the Western Hemisphere and Africa. We can only address the systemic challenges posed by Moscow and Beijing with the help of like-minded friends.”

Meeks succeeds Eliot Engel, an ardent supporter of strong ties with India, who founded the India Caucus in the House. The longtime congressman from New York lost the 2020 primaries to fellow Democrat Jamaal Bowman, who starts his first term in January.

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