Saturday, February 7, 2009
India's Washington Lobby Emulates AIPAC
India Post is reporting that 60 US lawmakers attacked Pakistan over its "inability to curb terrorist groups" at a January 27 reception hosted by the Indian American Task Force consisting of 200 representatives from nine Indian-American organizations in America. "Billions of dollars were poured into Pakistan in the hope that it will use them in the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, instead what we see is the inability of Pakistan to bring these people to justice," said Congressman Ed Royce.
"It's time to say 'enough'. No more US aid to Pakistan until Pakistan becomes part of the solution and not the problem." Congressman Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, said of the Mumbai terror attacks, "It is just inconceivable, but it reminds me again, that we are in a global war on terrorism and that's why the relationship between the United States and India has never been more important to defeat a common enemy." (India Post Feb 2, 2009)
The Indian-Americans' efforts appeared to be succeeding last week when Kashmir was dropped from special envoy Richard Holbrooke's mandate under pressure from the Indian lobby in Washington. According to Washington Post, India managed to "prune the portfolio of the Obama administration's top envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard C. Holbrooke -- basically eliminating the contested region of Kashmir from his job description". However, later news confirmed that Holbrooke will make India a part of his maiden visit to the region, refueling speculation that Kashmir will remain a central focus for US diplomacy in South Asia.
The Washington Post recognized the growing power of Indian lobbyists in September, 2007, when it reported as follows: "With growing numbers, clout and self-confidence, the Indian American community is turning its admiration for the Israel lobby and its respect for high-achieving Jewish Americans into a powerful new force of its own. Following consciously in AIPAC's footsteps, the India lobby is getting results in Washington -- and having a profound impact on U.S. policy, with important consequences for the future of Asia and the world."
Writing for Counterpunch website, South Asia scholar Vijay Prasad found evidence suggesting close collaboration between Indian and Jewish lobbies in Washington. Prasad wrote as follows: To prepare for the January 27 day of action, the Task Force released its “information document.” The primary author of the document is the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a group founded in the aftermath of 911 with the close support and encouragement of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) and the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). At a meeting of Jewish American and Indian American partisans of the right, Charles Brooks of the AJCommittee said, “We’re fighting the same extremist enemy. We want to help [the new Indian group] become more effective in communicating their political will.” Who is this “enemy”? Sue Ghosh Stricklett, who was then with USINPAC, told a conservative publication in 2003, “the terrorism directed against India is the same as that directed against the United States and Israel. We would like to see closer ties between the United States and Israel [with India].” Stricklett urges this alliance to deal with what these organizations often call “Islamic militancy” or “Islamic extremism,” or what the late Congressman Tom Lantos called it at an Indo-Jewish forum, “mindless, vicious, fanatic Islamic terrorism.” The USINPAC document on the Mumbai attacks argues, “We believe the problem of Islamic terrorism is global and requires an urgent global approach and solution.”
Undeterred by the efforts of the newly invigorated Indian lobby, however, a new bill will be introduced in the US Congress which will seek to more than triple US economic aid to Pakistan, according to Senator John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In an interview to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper and another news outlet, Mr Kerry has assured Pakistan that no new restrictions would be imposed on US military assistance to that country. The legislation is expected to pass with no fundamental changes, in spite of the threatened poison-pill amendments offered by pro-India congressmen.
The committee Senator Kerry chairs will play a crucial role in passing the bill, which was introduced in the previous Congress but now has to be reintroduced. The measure already enjoys bipartisan support, the senator said.
The “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” would authorize $1.5 billion annually for 10 years. Mr Kerry said the proposed measure enjoyed bipartisan support on the Hill as the lawmakers believed “that it is important to have a relationship” with the people of Pakistan.
Fresh from their success with the Bush administration's approval of US-India nuclear deal, the emerging Indian lobby feels emboldened in continuing its agenda to isolate Pakistan and hamstring Obama administration's initiatives to help resolve the core issue of Kashmir to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and South Asia. In emulating AIPAC, the powerful Israel lobbby in Washington, the Indian lobby is hoping to thwart the new administration's desire to act as an honest broker in one of the most dangerous, most populous and heavily nuclear-armed neighborhoods in the world.
There are isolated groups and organizations of Pakistani-Americans that have attempted to organize a loose coalition to lobby on behalf of Pakistani interests in Washington. One such coalition is organizing Pakistani American Community Advocacy Day on the Hill on February 26 in Washington. The effort is supported by a dozen different organizations including Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC), Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA), Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C), Pakistani American Congress (PAC), Association of Pakistani Professionals (AOPP), Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America (APSENA) Council of Pakistan American Affairs (COPAA ), Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce Council (PACCC), Friends of Pakistan (FOP), The Pakistani American Council of Texas (PACT), Pakistani American Association of Connecticut (PAACT) and National Association of Pakistani Americans (NAPA).
As the AIPAC experience shows, powerful Washington lobbies are not built in a day or even a year or two. It takes consistent grassroots efforts and a lot of money and influence over a long period of time to build clout and effectiveness. Buoyed by its recent successes, it seems that the Indian-American lobby is poised to continue to gain momentum with rising wealth, influence and political awareness of its members. The grassroots efforts to build such a lobby are already underway. At a 2007 Indian Community Center (ICC) event in Silicon Valley, a number of US politicians compared the ICC in Silicon Valley with the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Palo Alto and other parts of the United States. ICCs combined with IAC will serve as a vehicle for the Indian community to get involved in public service and the political process in the same way that JCCs have done by joining forces with AIPAC, the Isareli lobby. Steve Westley, in particular, went on to elaborate on the political "clout" of AIPAC in the United States and talked about how Indians can take "a leaf from AIPAC's playbook".
The success of India's lobbying effort in Indo-US nuclear deal should serve as a wake-up call to Pakistan and Pakistani-Americans. The growing power and influence of the Indian-American lobby is not likely to hurt Pakistan immediately in a big way, but it poses a serious long-term threat to Pakistan's interests in the United States and around the world. Isolating Pakistan will only make the world more unsafe than it is already.
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