WASHINGTON: Cutting across party lines, top Democratic and Republican lawmakers have pledged to work together to deepen the US ties with its "natural ally" India, amid the Obama administration's focus on the Asia-Pacific.
"As the United States rebalances its Asia-Pacific relationships, we are going to be looking to India, for the partner that we need on economic and security issues in the region and around the world," Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska said in his address to the annual US-India Congressional Caucus Appreciation Dinner.
Nelson, a Democrat, said the US needs to continue to deepen economic cooperation with India, which is in mutual benefit of both the nations.
Nearly 20 Congressmen addressed the annual meeting at the Capitol Hill, which was organised by the Indian American Forum for Political Education headed by Sampat Shivangi.
Prominent among them were Senator Mark warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus; and Congressmen Joe Crowley and Ed Royce, Co-Chairs of the Congressional India Caucus in the House; besides lawmakersFrank Pallone, Dana Rohrabacher, Dough Lamborn and Gregg Harper.
Royce from the Republican party, who is the incoming Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Indian Caucuses in both the House and Senate have come a long way to become one of the powerful country-specific caucuses in the US Congress.
In his remarks, he recollected how in the initial years he worked to lift US sanctions on India.
He also said that "We need to hold Haqqani network accountable. We need to hold ISI accountable," amidst applause from Indian-Americans at the event held at the prestigious Kennedy Caucus Room at the Capitol Hill.
"We (India and the US) are natural allies," he said. Senator Warner, a Democrat, said that next on the agenda of the US lawmakers is the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between India and the United States.
This is the next step in improving economic relationship, he said, as he also stressed the need for visa reforms.
"With recent blackouts in India, I think there are enormous opportunities for both of us to work in the power sector," he said.
Defence collaboration is another area for cooperation. "It is absolutely essential that our national interests align," Warner added.
Key to India-US relationship is the Indian American community, he said.
Congressman Joe Crowley said India is going to be the most important US ally for the next 100 years.
He said he and other lawmakers are working with the Department of Justice and the FBI to include crime against Hindus and Sikhs in its hate crime list.