Ro Khanna-led House caucus delegation to visit India for I-day celebrations | World News - Hindustan Times
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Ro Khanna-led House caucus delegation to visit India for I-day celebrations

Aug 08, 2023 08:32 AM IST

The visit is significant because it marks the continued engagement of the Indian government with both chambers of the US Congress

A powerful bipartisan American Congressional delegation, led by House of Representatives India and Indian-Americans, caucus co-chairs Ro Khanna and Michael Waltz, will visit India to witness the unfurling of the Tricolour flag at Red Fort and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on Independence Day. This is possibly the first time that a US political delegation will join the August 15 celebrations.

US Rep. Ro Khanna at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Reuters File Photo)
US Rep. Ro Khanna at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Reuters File Photo)

Khanna, who is a Democrat from California, and Waltz, who is a Republican from Florida, will be accompanied by six other American legislators — Deborah Ross, Kat Cammack, Shri Thanedar, Jasmine Crockett, Rich McCormick, and Ed Case.

“Both of us believe that the US-India relationship will be a defining one of the 21st Century. India is a key partner in ensuring multipolarity in Asia and the denial of China as a hegemon. We must continue to strive to make progress and build our partnership based on our shared founding values of democracy, freedom of the press and assembly, and human rights. This delegation is a historic opportunity to drive further collaboration and advance shared aims,” the two co-chairs said in a statement.

The delegation will kick off its visit from Mumbai on August 10, where they will meet corporate leaders including those with investments in the US, spend time understanding India’s digital public infrastructure, visit the Western Naval Command and meet figures from popular culture. They will then travel to Hyderabad where they will visit the Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited facility and a biotech company, in a sign of the defence and scientific collaboration between the two countries. They will then head to New Delhi where they will meet the PM and external affairs minister S Jaishankar and engage in discussions on strategic issues, including China.

The delegation also hopes to engage in cricket diplomacy, with Major League Cricket, a T20 league inaugurated in the US last month and the US scheduled to host the T20 World Cup next June.

The visit is significant because it marks the continued engagement of the Indian government with both chambers of the US Congress, a co-equal branch in the American governance system. Just this year, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer led the most high-powered delegation of Senate leaders to India. Soon after that, the Senate expedited the approval of Eric Garcetti as US ambassador to India. On Schumer’s initiative, the National Defense Authorization Act version that cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee included a specific section instructing Pentagon to ensure India was “appropriately considered for security cooperation benefits” consistent with its status as a major defence partner including exploring the eligibility of Indian companies for Pentagon contracts.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also approved a resolution condemning China’s aggression against India and recognising Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India. On the House side, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been a strong supporter of closer India-US ties and played a key role in inviting Modi to address a joint meeting of the US Congress during his state visit in June.

The visit is also significant because both Khanna are Waltz are important figures in their own right in the American political and strategic map.

Khanna is a member of the House select committee on the strategic competition with China and a member of the armed services committee as well as a part of the House progressive caucus, brings a unique political perspective. As a representative from Silicon Valley, America’s richest Congressional district, he is an important voice in tech policy debates, making him an important stakeholder in the India-US tech partnership which has got momentum with the initiative on critical and emerging technology (ICET). As a progressive who supported Bernie Sanders, he leans Left in his political views and is a social liberal. As a legislator closely involved in national security debates, he has taken a strong unequivocal position against China’s aggression. On India, Khanna straddles a fine line, supporting the strategic relationship with New Delhi while voicing his concerns over issues of what critics term as “democratic backsliding” and human rights violations and engaging closely with Indian-American community at home.

Waltz is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he is in the Indo-Pacific subcommittee, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is also an Afghanistan veteran who has continued his engagement with the region as a member of Friends of Afghanistan caucus. Waltz’s predecessor from the Florida 6th Congressional district was the current state governor and presidential aspirant, Ron DeSantis.

Khanna told HT said it was an honour to co-lead a bipartisan delegation to India and be at Red Fort on India’s Independence Day. “I am confident our delegation will strengthen the economic partnership, promote cricket diplomacy between the two countries, and strengthen the defence ties. We will also uphold the values of human rights, freedom of the press, and a vibrant democracy.”

For Khanna, the moment at Red Fort is also personal as he often recalls his grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, a freedom fighter and a Congress parliamentarian in the post-Independence years, as an inspiration.

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