Rising Indian lobby in US

Khalid Chandio

Thursday, June 16, 2011 - Lobbying is the practice of influencing government decisions. It includes efforts to influence legislators and height government officials. Lobbying is a common practice in the United States, especially during general elections. Various Public Relations Firms (PRFs) are paid for their services and then used in influencing the winning lawmakers. These firms sometimes act as Pressure Groups too. And the American-Indians play a prominent role in this game. The emergence of the Indian Lobby, its techniques, working and influence in the USA are some of the issues that are seldom touched upon in Pakistan. One should not see this in isolation but rather in recent times we have witnessed the growing role of the Indian Lobby on the pattern of the strong Jewish Lobby. In Jews, Indian-Americans see a role model in activism and this equation further becomes much easier due to the known US-Israel-India Strategic Nexus.

The primary group in the Indian Lobby is the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a group that was formed after 9/11 with the close support and encouragement of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). The USINPAC even sounds a bit like AIPAC. The US-India Business Council, primarily working for trade and investment in the two countries, has lavished big money on lobbyists, too. In just five years, USINPAC has become the most visible face of Indian American lobbying. India has been using some powerful lobbyists in the USA for furthering its interests. It has also been actively engaged in anti-Pakistan propaganda in the USA.

The power of the India Lobby is extremely impressive. Generous donations from Indian-American community leaders and Indian Government channels have helped grease the wheels of support. The new Indian lobby seems to be closer to most of the right-wing Indian politicians. They continue to beat war drums against Pakistan. US congress received a personal letter from Sanjay Puri, Chairman and founder of USINPAC with an online petition signed by over 16000 citizens calling for to cut off funding to Pakistan if it does not shut down the terror training camps. Indian lobby is active in blocking every move that is favourable to Pakistan like sophisticated weapons for countering insurgency in tribal belt of Pakistan. USINPAC congratulated Indian-Americans appointees to the Obama administration and these include Aneesh Chopra, the first Federal Chief Technology Officer, Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer and Sonal Shah, Head of new office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the White House. The Indian lobby may be behind these appointees to further tighten its grip on the administration.

The USA, to check the rise of China, has been trying to forge a new strategic alliance with India and the end result is civil nuclear deal with her. Even lawmakers who had made nuclear nonproliferation a core issue over their long careers, such as Sen. Richard Lugar, quickly came around to accommodate India. Why? The answer is that the Indian lobby is now officially a powerful presence on the Capitol Hill. India is perhaps seen as the single biggest money-making opportunity of the 21st century with its huge population. There are now some 2.2 million Americans of Indian origin, a number that is growing rapidly especially after Obama announced lots of jobs for the Indians.

There are some factors which naturally benefit Indians to play an active role in the US. As a group, Indian-Americans have higher levels of education and income, making them eligible for political mobilization. Apart from this, the secular system in the largest democracy of the world, though debatable, has many admirers in the west. Even non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the USA somehow influence the US citizens by projecting Indian power in the South Asian region. They use soft power i.e. colorful culture of India like yoga, films, and India shining publicity which covers up the rampant poverty, hunger, crime, human rights abuses especially in Kashmir and Naxalite-Maoist areas, Muslim massacre in Gujrat and Christian massacre in Orisa etc. Even a well known Indian author Arundhati Roy called India’s economic success a ‘lie’ in an interview to BBC.

Now, since lobbying is a reality and fast becoming a new trend in today’s international relations, it may be called an indirect form of diplomacy. Sometimes when direct diplomacy fails, the indirect form succeeds. Jewish lobby in the US is the classical example of this. Pakistan should not be sitting idle and watching. Pakistanis living in foreign countries could be an asset in this regard. They must project true picture of Pakistan in their respective countries by highlighting softer image of the country. In response to Indian lobby’s ‘always Pakistan bashing’ attitude, our educated youth abroad should apprise the world about many positive things in Pakistan. Pakistan is the land where Gandhara and Indus Valley civilizations flourished. During the 2nd century B.C., it was here that Buddhism was adopted as the state religion which flourished and prevailed here for over 1000 years, starting from 2nd century B.C., until 10th century A.D.

There are some Muslim societies in the USA which may also be used as a platform and the main focus should be on adaptability of the Muslims. Domestic-grown differences of Pakistanis should never be reflected in the US or other countries as this has often been seen. Contrary to Indian embassies abroad, Pakistani embassies are more bureaucratic in nature. These embassies can play a vital role in making efforts to neutralize Indian lobby’s propaganda against Pakistan. It is also interesting to note that there is hardly any book or paper written exclusively on the rising Indian lobby in the US by Pakistanis. There is a need for extensive work on this. We must start looking at the matter and do everything possible to counter this lobbying game which is so productive in today’s international relations.

—The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).

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