Thursday, April 06, 2006

Meeting with the Senators to lobby for Indian Nuclear deal

In the midst of a busy session where Condi Rice had given dramatic presentation on Indian nuclear deal to the house and the Senate and when the Congress was deciding on an important Immigration bill, I had the chance to attend the most distinguished meeting of my life, so far, at the United States of America's Capitol Hill.

It was a part of lobbying efforts done by the US-Indians Political Action Committee and a quarter of the audience were eminent Congressmen of United States, including the respected Rep. Tom Lantos, Rep. Pallone (founder of India Caucus), Sen. Obama (in charge of Asia-Pacific Region in foreign relations committee). The remaining consisted of distinguished persons like Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns (who negotiated the nuclear deal with India), Indian ambassador R.S. Jassal and trade representatives and distinguished members of the Indian American community and the small meeting room was teeming with these great men.

On the side, I was feeling odd man out being the only student and seemingly the only person in 20's, to be meeting with these people. I got the first touch of the governmental processes of the world's greatest democracy and hearing the eminent speeches of these politicians, my respect for United States has gone higher. I wish Indian politicians were like these. Let me now go over the meeting, shortly.

The nuclear deal has caught the imagination of people and I was enthusiastically reading about it for the past 2 months, in depth. Even the night before my Microsoft interview, I was ardently reading a dozen articles on the deal and so it is no wonder that when I got the invite to attend the meeting from the USINPAC, I immediately accepted it, though I had a thesis to go. I felt that I might not get such an opportunity in the immediate future, as I would be moving far away from D.C. So, today morning, I left for DC and after a 2.5 hour journey, I reached the Capitol Hill. Even after seeing it a half-a-dozen times, I'm always inspired by this great Capitol (which houses the US Senate and House of Representatives), as it represents liberty, free speech and democracy of the world. I had a leisurely walk around it and 15 min, before the meeting (at 2.45pm), I decided to move in.

I was surprized to see the gaurds allow me to go in front of the long and winding queue to enter the Capitol Hill, just on showing the email invite. I had a 2min security check and within 5 min, I got my Official Business Visitor badge and entered the pillars of democracy without any hassles. It was full of people - visitors and legislators and businessmen coming there for various purposes. Though I got the wrong roomname from the committe (by mistake), I was well directed by the receptionist and within minutes I reached the small room on the corner - HC 8. I was welcomed by the Mr. Manoj, a senior official of USINPAC, who was surprized to see a person walking in Business Casuals. He pleasantly pointed to me that the important meeting required a highly formal attire and so I missed up a opportunity to personally meet with the senior officials. Still the experience of belonging to a 40 odd eminent audience, was great.

The meeting had some scintallating minor talks: Sec. Burns had a very great speech, where he beautifully pointed out the role played by India and put it in beautiful words: "If we are following double standards, so be it. If double standards means distinguishing India from Iran and North Korea, then are proud of those double standards... India had an exceptional track record and it is great to have such a member in our regime... Given the high quality of Indian engineers they could have tripled their arsenal in the last 20 years but they didnt do it and this shows their commitment towards non-proliferation".

Rep. Lantos (I followed most of his statements in the Press and got the impression he is quite a tough guy) was surprizingly old and he had some good words for India. At the same time, as he pointed out with his meeting with Shyam Saran (Indian foreign secretary) he was highly wary of India-Iran relationships and he didnt mince words in it. Many of the senators also joked about the Indian air pollution, water problems, poverty etc. and wanted to take action for it by offering US help. One Senator criticized India for allowing research on Biotechnology while preventing US based Monsanto and other companies to export seeds to India. Others also pointed out at the pollution caused due to low quality of Indian coal. Rep. Pallone who is very close to India, criticized Prez. Bush for not lobbying with the Congressmen and also requested Indian Americans to setup a permanent "War room" to be a central point for these discussions.

But, on the whole, everyone was in high praise of India. I was the happiest person on earth to have my country recognized so much. I was waiting for years to see India going so strong. I was glad that I'm also a small speck in the great deal of things happening to India. The happy feeling that I have now, is matched by only 2 other events of 2003 - long one-on-one meetings with the Indian President at his office on Feb 26 and Aug. 13, 2003 and the greatest research presentation that I've done, at IIT Kanpur (March 2, 2003).

1 comment:

nakul jain said...

Awesome article sir.. hats off and proud of india.