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Kamala Harris will build stronger US-India relations, say Indian Americans

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Aug 12: “We have arrived,” said Ramesh Kapur, President of the US India Security Council and National Finance - Biden Campaign, about Kamala Harris joining Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice-president.

The Tuesday announcement sent a wave of excitement coursing through the small Indian American community of about 4 million people. There was a sense, cutting across party lines, that Harris’s name on the presidential ticket was a badge of recognition for the entire community.

Harris is not only the first woman of color to appear on a major U.S. presidential ticket, but she is also the first person of South Asian descent.

In October 2019 in New York, Ramesh Kapur and his team had hosted her for a major fund raiser where she spoke of her Indian roots and how proud she is of India and the values that her mother Shyamala ingrained into her. She will make America proud and build stronger US-India relations, said Kapur.

Kapur, a veteran Democratic fundraiser, insists that the Biden-Harris ticket, as the team will be called now and until the November 3 elections and beyond, should be called, instead, the “Biden-Kamala” ticket.

“The ‘Biden-Kamala’ name,” said Kapur, who had hosted a fundraiser for Harris at his home in Boston in 2016 during her senate race, had a better Indian ring to it.

Rajendar Dichpally, Director (Communication), US Indian Security Council and Co-Chair - Indian Americans for Kamala Harris also expressed his excitement over the Harris’s name on the presidential ticket.

Rajendar Dichpally said "This is a once in a generation time for the community to come together and support/ elect one of our own. Kamala Harris takes great pride in the indian values instilled into her by her mother Shyamala. She still has many relatives in India and attachments to the country. She will ensure much better US-India relations if she is in White House. She is capable, has a great track record and will be an asset to America in these very troubled times."

Prof. Sanjay Kaul from Boston, a veteran commentator on world politics, is of firm opinion that in a world undergoing constant and rapid changes and of Covid Pandemics , this combination of Biden and Harris is the most pragmatic approach to problems of race relations Americans are facing. They have the capacity to provide the best tools for understanding the world and making it better and anticipating probable development for the global future.

Many Indians are tweeting support Wednesday for Kamala Harris.

"This is a historical, transformational, and proud moment for... all women of colour, all Black women, and all South Asian women," Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra tweeted. "Pride for India!!" says another.

Harris' mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who died in 2009, was a Hindu whose family hails from Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. Gopalan moved to California for graduate school before Harris was born.

"It is a moment of pride for Indians and Tamil Nadu especially," tweeted the state's deputy chief minister, Thiru O. Panneerselvam.

While Harris has most often identified herself as Black, and on occasion, as African American, she wrote about her Indian mother's influence on her in her 2019 memoir, The Truths We Hold. Harris has previously spoken about her family's Indian heritage, including in a giggly cooking video with actor Mindy Kaling. Harris has said she has fond memories of strolling Tamil Nadu's beaches with her late grandfather.

No American of India descent has ever made it on to a presidential ticket. Bobby Jindal, a former governor of Louisiana, was the first of Indian-descent to run for president. But he lost in the Republican primaries to Donald Trump, who went on to win the White House in 2016.

Harris became the second Indian American to try, in 2019. But her run for the Democratic ticket did not last long either, to the disappointment of the community, many of whom were girding up for a long run. including Kapur, who had held some fund-raisers.

Her return to the fray Tuesday, rekindled that optimism and re-energized the community.

“Moment of great pride for the Indian American community,” said Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of Victory Fund, a Democratic party-affiliate focussed on Asian Americans. “It’s a first in so many ways and will help Joe Biden win the presidency which is the first priority. A seismic shift occurred today and its ramifications will be felt for many decades.”

Frank Islam, a major Indian American fundraiser for Democrats, said, “This is a historical day for America, especially for the African American and Indian American communities.”

“Since Dalip Singh Saund entered the US Congress in 1957 against all odds, the community has made tremendous strides in politics,” he added, referring to the first Indian American elected to US congress. “This unquestionably trumps every milestone. Vice presidency is generally referred to as a position that is a heartbeat away from presidency.”

Most vice-presidents go on to run for the top job, with the rare exception in recent years of Dick Cheney, vice-president to President George W Bush. And most of them win, against with the rare exception in recent years of Al Gore, vice-president to President Bill Clinton. And former Vice-President Biden is himself in the fray, continuing the tradition.

The nomination sets up Harris for another presidential run, according to experts. It could be in 2024, if Biden, should he win this time in 2020, doesn’t want to continue, which is a widely considered possibility given his age (he is 77 now); or in 2028 at the end of the full two-term Biden presidency.

“It’s the beginning of her becoming the first Indian American president,” Kapur said of the Tuesday announcement.

Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON, Aug 11: Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has named Kamal Harris, who is of mixed Indian and African-American descent, as his pick for vice-president.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden wrote on Twitter.

Harris is first American of Indian and Asian descent to run for vice-president. She is also the first African American and only the third woman to run for that office.

The 55-year-old first time senator from California is the daughter of Indian mother, from Chennai, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher who passed away in 2009, and Jamaican father, Donald Harris, who teaches at Stanford University. The parents separated when Harris and her younger sister Maya Harris were still very young.

Harris became the first Indian American woman to run for US president ever — from either party in 2019. The first from the tiny minority community of 4 million was Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, who didn’t last the primaries that were won by President Trump. Harris is also the first Indian American Democrat to try for the job.

US Congressional Panel expresses bipartisan ‘concern’ over J&K situation

WASHINGTON, Aug 8: A US House of Representatives panel on foreign relations expressed bipartisan “concern” at the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in a letter to external affairs minister S Jaishankar, but India contended on Thursday that “positive changes” in the Union territory have ensured a “return to complete normalcy”.

“We note with concern that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir have not normalised one year after India’s repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory,” Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and Michael T McCaul, a Republican member, wrote in the letter.

It was a rare instance of bipartisan criticism of the changes in Kashmir. Democrats have condemned it before at many public forums, headlined most prominently by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, an Indian-American.

Republicans have been mostly supportive through their silence, taking the lead from the Trump administration’s response that it was an “internal matter” of India.

Engel and McCaul sought to soft-land the criticism by averring themselves as “champions” of the India-US relationship.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: “This letter reflects a strong bipartisan support for India in the US. Regarding the specific issue that you referred to, there have been several positive changes in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir over the past one year, whether it be in terms of ensuring good governance or socio-economic development or delivering justice to disadvantaged sections of the population.”

Trump bars US government agencies from outsourcing to foreign workers

WASHINGTON, Aug 4: President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday that bars federal government agencies from displacing American nationals and citizens with foreign workers. It also calls for prohibiting American employers from using H-1B workers to displace Americans in outsourcing contracts. Indians have been largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme.

The White House said in a statement the order will “create a policy where Federal agencies will focus on United States labor in lucrative Federal contracts” as it will be "unfair” for federal government agencies to “replace perfectly qualified Americans with workers from other countries”.

All federal agencies will conduct an internal audit following to order to ensure “only United States citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service.”.

The executive order also enjoins upon the department of labor, which is responsible for ensuring the fairness of the process of hiring foreign workers, to “finalize guidance to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers’ job sites to displace Americans workers”, in what is called third-party locations, essentially the practice of outsourcing using foreign workers on H-1B.

“President Trump’s actions will help combat employers’ misuse of H-1B visas, which were never intended to replace qualified American workers with low-cost foreign labor,” said the White House.

The is a follow-up of the April 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that unleashed a series of ongoing steps and measures bringing unprecedented scrutiny and tightening of the H-1B visa programme that has been in the crosshairs of the administration’s immigration hardliners.

Indian hired by US companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon and US subsidiaries of Indian IT forms Infosys, TCS and Wipro are the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme, accounting for more than 70% of the 85,000 that are issued every year.

A response is awaited from Nasscom, which represents the Indian IT industry.

The immediate provocation for the Monday order is the decision in May for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest federally owned power provider, to outsource 20% of its highly skilled tech workers to Accenture, Capgemini and CGI, that are based in Ireland, France and Canada respectively.

The White House said TVA’s action could lead to the firing of 200 highly-skilled American tech workers, who will be replaced by “low-wage, foreign workers hired on temporary work visas” and cost the local economy tens of millions of dollars in the coming 5 years.

“So let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board,” Trump said at a White House event to sign the order, where he also said he was pushing for the firing of the TVA CEO Jeff Lyash. “If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words ‘you’re fired. You’re fired’.”

The Trump administration said outsourcing of hundreds of workers was “especially detrimental in the middle of a pandemic”, which has led to millions of job-losses. Trump has also suspended the H-1B visa programme — as well as Green Cards — to ensure Americans get the first shot at jobs becoming available now as the economy struggles to get back to normalcy, from record job losses.

It also sought to frame the practice of outsourcing, with a new twists, asa “national security risk”, if linked to IT jobs that involve sensitive information. The reference was probably to the country’s growing estrangement from China, which the Trump administration has accused of theft of intellectual property rights.

Trump says TikTok must sell US operations by September 15 or close

WASHINGTON, Aug 3: President Donald Trump said TikTok will have to close its U.S. operations by September 15 unless there’s a deal to sell the social media network’s American operations.

He said that he’s okay with the idea of Microsoft Corp. buying TikTok -- as the company has said it’s negotiating to do -- and that there would have to be a substantial payment to the U.S. as part of the deal.

Trump set off a furious scramble over the fate of the Chinese-owned app on Friday, when he said he would ban the company’s operations through an executive action on Saturday. But the weekend passed without any official move from the White House, after the president spoke with Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella about his company’s efforts to purchase the viral video application.

Microsoft said in a blog post that it was aiming to complete a deal for TikTok’s operations in the U.S., as well as in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, no later than September 15. The White House had insisted upon that deadline, according to people familiar with the matter. It could prove an uphill climb, with key details for the deal -- including price -- still not worked out, people familiar with the discussions said.

The White House has said it’s concerned that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance Ltd., could be compelled to hand over American users’ data to Beijing or use the app to influence the 165 million Americans, and more than 2 billion users globally, who have downloaded it. And Trump has looked to ratchet up pressure on China ahead of November’s election, frustrated by slow implementation of the trade pact inked earlier this year and the spread of the coronavirus for which he blames China.

Teenagers opposed to the president have also used the app to disrupt the president’s campaign activities, including signing up for tickets to the president’s first rally since the beginning of the pandemic, in Tulsa. Attendance at the late June event was far below expectations, and Trump hasn’t held another rally since.

In its blog post, Microsoft pledged to add more security, privacy and digital safety protections to the TikTok app and ensure that all private data of Americans be transferred back to the U.S. and deleted from servers outside the country. The company also said it may invite other American investors to take minority stakes in the company.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns,” the company said. “It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”

Still, U.S. lawmakers and administration officials have favored shutting down the application altogether to send a message to China after Beijing restricted American companies like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. White House adviser Peter Navarro on Monday said in a pair of interviews with CNN and Fox News that he wasn’t sure Microsoft was the right company to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations, saying it had helped China construct its internet firewall.

“Should we trust any company that operates in China?” Navarro told Fox News.

US condemns Hong Kong decision to postpone legislative council polls

WASHINGTON, Aug 2: The United States on Saturday condemned the Hong Kong’s administration move to postpone Legislative Council elections and urged the government to reconsider their decision.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Friday that the Legislative Council elections scheduled for September 6 will be postponed over the Covid-19 threat.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a statement, said that the elections should be held as close to September 6 date as possible and in a manner that reflects the will and aspirations of the people of Hong Kong.

“The United States condemns the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone by one year upcoming Legislative Council elections originally scheduled for September 6. There is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay. It is likely, therefore, that Hong Kong will never again be able to vote - for anything or anyone,” Pompeo said in the statement published on the State Department website read.

“We urge Hong Kong authorities to reconsider their decision. The elections should be held as close to September 6 date as possible and in a manner that reflects the will and aspirations of the Hong Kong people. If they aren’t, then regrettably Hong Kong will continue its march toward becoming just another Communist-run city in China,” the statement added.

 

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