Indian Lobbying and Its Influence in US Decision Making: Post-Cold War
Publication Year: 2017
How lobbying by Indian Americans in the United States has influenced US foreign policy towards India Indian Lobbying and its Influence in US Decision Making looks at the ways in which Indian lobbying acts as a catalyst in transforming the US–India relationship in the post-Cold War era, the events that explain their formation, and factors that legitimize these groups as an institution in US politics.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Lobbying, Pressure Groups, and Ethnic Lobbying in the US Foreign Policy Making: Theoretical Overview
- Chapter 2: Indian Americans: Immigration and Professional Advancement in the US
- Chapter 3: Indian Americans and Political Participation: Growing Political Activism and Lobbying in the American Political Process
- Chapter 4: India Caucus: Lobbying for a Robust US–India Relation
- Chapter 5: The American Perception about India: The US–India Relations and Indian Lobbying during the Cold War Period
- Chapter 6: Achievements and Actions of Indian Lobbying toward a Transformed and Robust US–India Relation
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Copyright © Ashok Sharma, 2017
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First published in 2017 by
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Dedicated to my parents
Shree Awadh Kishore Prasad Sharma and Late Girija Devi
List of Tables[Page ix]
- 2.1Indian Immigrants to the US (1820–1900) 44
- 2.2Indian Immigration into the US 47
- 2.3Number of Indian Immigrants to the US (1966–1975) 49
- 2.4Immigrants from India and Other South Asian Countries, 1970–1990 50
- 2.5Distribution of Indian Americans by Region and Major States in 1980 and 1990 56
- 2.6Percentage of Bachelor's and Master's Degree Holders for Indian and White American 25 Years Old and Over, 1990 61
- 2.7Percentage Comparison of Indian Americans with White Americans in Occupations (1990) 63
September 28, 2014, Madison Square Garden, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the stage greeted by over 20,000 people of Indian origin and 42 US Congressmen. It is easy to understand why the Indian community is present in such large numbers to greet Modi, who brought a sense of hope after a resounding election victory with a convincing majority in the Indian Parliament not seen for three decades. But the presence of Congressmen tells a different story. Modi's popularity notwithstanding, their presence was more a reflection of the growing influence of Indian Americans and the Indian lobbying in the US politics, and a significant tilt of American policy toward India.
This day can be viewed as the culmination of a long process of the maturing of Indian lobbying and its role in turning the distinctly frosty American attitude toward India to one that has brought the world's oldest and largest democracies to carve a defining partnership of the twenty-first century.
American policy toward India has shifted over time from neglect to one of significant attention. During the Cold War period, the American executive and Congressional attitude were often hostile and critical toward India. Since the mid-1950s, there appeared to be a fundamental convergence of the views within the executive and legislative branches of the US Government toward India. American strategic policies and concerns, the US–Soviet rivalry, Indo-Pak hostility, and India's policy of non-alignment complicated Washington's bilateral ties with New Delhi.
In the changed post-Cold War scenario, the US–India relationship has overcome from the ideological baggage to a considerable extent. There has been a significant shift in the attitude of American policy makers, which has in turn paved the way for a robust US–India relationship. Today, the US–India relationship has entered in a comprehensive strategic partnership that includes joint military exercises, counter terrorism cooperation, defence agreement, defence commerce, and a coveted civilian nuclear energy deal. This reflects the United States' changed notion of India in the present world [Page xii]order and indicates that the two countries are no more grounded in obsolete conflicts of interest.
Several factors are responsible for this change. While the end of Cold War leading to a changed international scenario, increasing strategic and economic importance of India are important factors, one of the significant contributors to this change is Indian lobbying through the India Caucus, Indian–American political organizations and lobbyists and lobbying firms hired by the Indian Government, which have come on top of the increasing political influence enjoyed by Indian Americans in the US society.
The formation of the India Caucus in the House of Representative and then in the Senate is particularly notable indicator of fundamental change in the Congressional attitude toward India. It is commonly believed that successful lobbying by India Caucus has contributed to a much better image of India in the US Congress and deserves greater attention. Several variables play a role in the foreign policy decision making in the United States, the role of the lobbying is one of them.
The US governmental system, with the separation of powers, creates ample space for the lobbying activities of interest groups. The key activities of these groups in pursuit of their interests are to penetrate and influence government agencies, which are directly engaged in policy formulation. The role of lobbying in the American political life has therefore drawn the attention of American citizens, politicians, academicians, journalists, and political scientists throughout history.
Lobbying is an intrinsic part of the American political process. It is a technique adopted by many diverse interest groups, ranging from small domestic focused social, professional, ethnic groups to large foreign companies and nation states, for the purpose of putting pressure on policy makers in Congress to consider their interests favorably in policy decision making. The rights enjoyed by various groups in the United States are defined in the First Amendment to the Constitution “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people … to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This very First Amendment to the US Constitution, which incorporated the freedom of assembly clause, upheld the right to organize groups, is the basis for one of the most powerful and controversial influences in the making of US foreign policy: [Page xiii]lobbying. Under the right to petition, domestic ethnic groups and foreign governments use favors and political skill to press their policy objectives on the legislative and executive branches of the government in Washington.
This book considers lobbying to be an effective instrument of political participation and political aggregation, which allows competing points of view to be heard. Lobbying also provides information to those who make important policy decisions, such as members of the Congress, various committee chairs, and members as well as high-level officials in the political executive bodies.
Lobbying tactics include face-to-face meetings between legislators and representatives of interest groups, grassroots campaigns, the use of the mass media, and the publication of research reports. It involves both direct as well as indirect techniques.
As American society has grown more pluralistic, and as the US Government has grown larger and more decentralized, lobbying activities in the United States have also increased. While lobbying activities of domestic interest groups are well documented and researched, the involvement of foreign interests in lobbying activities has been relatively less known. Before the 1990s, most foreign companies used the commercial arms of their diplomatic missions to promote their interests in the United States. Embassies of various countries still assist companies and provide their nationals with diplomatic and consular services, but foreign companies and countries have increasingly turned to American firms to represent their interests in Washington policy-making circles.
The history of Indian lobbying in the United States is of relatively recent origin. In fact, during the 1980s, only 5 percent of American legislators claimed that they were interested in India. If it was not for influential lawmakers like Stephen Solarz, India would have hardly figured in the deliberations. Three basic factors seem to have contributed to the increase in lobbying on issues of US–India relations:
- the growing socio-economic and political profile of the Indian–American community;
- the Government of India's decision to employ the help of US lobbying firms to make its voice heard in the US Capital; and
- the increased activities of the Pakistani lobby in Washington's policy-making circles.
[Page xiv]Although Indian Americans constitute a small segment of the total population in the United States (around 1 percent), they have acquired a respectable position for themselves in the American society. They have an influential presence in the fields of science and technology, medicine, and academia in the United States. Over 5,000 faculty members in various American universities belong to the Indian–American community. There are about 30,000 Indian–American medical professionals in the United States today and one out of every four foreign medical doctors is from India. Most recently, their presence is being felt in the software business sector throughout the country with around 15 percent of Silicon Valley's startups. Today, almost all the big US technology companies have technology pioneers from Indian–American community. With their representation of 3 percent of the nation's engineers, 7 percent of its IT workers professionals, 8 percent of its physicians and surgeons, and 15 percent of motel and hotel owners, Indian Americans have occupied a commendable place for themselves in professional and economic field in the United States.
However, for a long time the Indian community in the United States did not actively participate in the political processes and activities to voice their opinion. Their political activism was insignificant in comparison to other ethnic groups. However, the situation changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Increased numbers of Indian Americans began to show their interests in local political activities. Their political activism became significantly noticeable with the formation of the India Caucus in the US Congress in 1993.
In addition to reflecting the increasing influence of Indian Americans in US society, the formation of the India Caucus also reflected the increased efforts of the Indian Government. Prevailing uncertainties of the post-Cold War era and the need to engage the remaining super power induced the Government of India to adopt various means to make its voice heard in the complex policy-making process in Washington.
Formation of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives in 1993 and in the US Senate in 2004 therefore signified various developments.
- It reflected the growing importance of the Indian–American community in the United States;
- [Page xv]It indicated an emerging positive attitude within US legislators toward India; and
- It also provided a focused institution for lobbying by the Indian community, as well as for the Indian Government. Today the India Caucus lobby is one of the biggest of its kind in the United States.
The study focuses on two overarching developments. It looks at the professional success of Indian Americans, their political and lobbying activities, and their role in improving the relations between the United States and India. It also looks at the birth of India Caucus, its evolution, and its facilitating role in US–India relations. Concerted effort by the Indian Government to strengthen the role of the India Caucus is also a key development.
This book Indian Lobbying and its Influence in US Decision Making: Post-Cold War emerges from the significance of Indian–American interest groups' lobbying activities in the US political process. This work is ultimately an attempt to assess the role of Indian lobbying in the US foreign policy making toward India. It will examine the overall impact of lobbying undertaken by the Indian–American community and their organizations, and the lobbying activities of the India Caucus, lobbying firms, and lobbyists hired by the India Government.
This book has been divided into six chapters and a conclusion.
Chapter 1 is titled Lobbying, Pressure Groups, and Ethnic Lobbying in the US Foreign Policy Making. This chapter looks into origin and development of lobbying groups in the US political system. Different theories related to group formation advocated by David Truman, Mancur Olson, Robert Salisbury, and Jack Walker have been discussed. The factors, which have legitimized the interest groups lobbying activities in the US political system, find a detailed treatment here. It also scans the methods, techniques, and targets of lobbying. In the end, existence of some of main ethnic lobbies and their influence in the US policy process have been discussed.
Chapter 2, Indian Americans: Immigration and Professional Advancement in the US, deals with Indian immigration to the United States. It looks into pre- as well as post-1965 phases of immigration. The settlement pattern of Indian Americans has been explained and a comparison has been made with other Asian–American [Page xvi]communities like Chinese Americans and Korean Americans. The current status of Indian Americans in the field of education, income, and occupational placements has also been discussed. In the end, the chapter makes an assessment of their professional success of Indian Americans.
Chapter 3, Indian Americans and Political Participation: Growing Political Activism and Lobbying in the American Political Process, deals with political activism and lobbying efforts of Indian Americans. The chapter divides their political activism and lobbying efforts into two phases. The first phase is before 1965 and another is after 1965 when the Immigration Act was passed in the United States. This chapter also looks into the participation of Indian Americans in direct politics, their fund-raising activities, and formation of political organizations. In the end, the chapter studies the role of the Indian–American political organizations in lobbying for the betterment of US–India relations.
Chapter 4 titled India Caucus: Lobbying for a Robust US–India Relation is about the events and factors that resulted in the formation of India Caucus and how it grew from eight Congressmen to 185. Lobbying by India Caucus in the US Congress for Indian Americans and for the US–India relations has been explained. The role of India Caucus in lobbying through press release, statements and resolutions in the US Congress for defending India and tackling adversary lobby on the issues such as nuclear, terrorism, Kargil, Kashmir, economic aid, and so on finds a detailed explanation in this chapter. Finally, an evaluation of India Caucus has been made by analyzing its success and failure showing its drawbacks and remedies.
Chapter 5, The American Perception about India: The US–India Relations, and Indian Lobbying during the Cold War Period, looks into the negative perception about India that had been dominant among the US Congressmen and executive officials during the Cold War period and how it created hurdles for developing a favorable environment or a positive platform on which they could come together and form a sound bilateral relationship. It examines the perception that was reflected during the US Congressional debate on foreign aid and nuclear issues, and how the lack of Indian lobbying allowed these negative perception to continue in the United States. Then it looks at how these perceptions further resulted into a conflicting US–India [Page xvii]relation during the Cold War period and often harmed foreign aid prospects and denial of nuclear and defence technology to India. Finally, this chapter scans the beginning phase of Indian lobbying effort, which began to register itself at Hill during the waning days of the Cold War and early years of the post-Cold War period, that was aimed at changing perception in the United States about India.
Chapter 6 titled Achievements and Actions of Indian Lobbying toward a Transformed and Robust US–India Relation focuses on the lobbying undertaken with the intention of influencing US foreign policy toward India on various issues such as foreign aid, civilian nuclear deal, terrorism, and economic issues. It examines the role that Indian lobbying has played in aftermath of India's nuclear defiance in 1998 and Kargil incident, and also during the passage of the landmark nuclear deal bill in the US Congress, which marked the final arrival Indian lobbying as one of the most powerful ethnic lobbying after the Jewish lobby.
The main focus of this chapter is to show how lobbying, apart from other factors in the post-Cold War era, has played a significant role in the United States' favorable policy toward India and its integration into a major part of US foreign policy. This chapter also emphasizes on the important aspects of strategy of Indian lobbying that have been significant in its lobbying journey, such as the countering of Pakistani lobbying, aligning with Israel lobby especially for the passage of the US–India civilian nuclear deal, and hiring of lobbying firms. The chapter ends with the present status of the US–India relations.
The Conclusion looks into the significance of lobbying in the US, Indian Americans' political activities assessed in the context of various pressure groups theories, an assessment of the lobbying activities of India Caucus and the influence of lobbying on the US–India relations. Finally, despite the ceaseless efforts of both the governments to forge a robust US–India strategic partnership which is underpinned by an unprecedented convergence of interests in the changing geo-strategic and geo-economic realities of the present world which will have a considerable impact on the global order in the twenty-first century, the relevance of Indian lobbying in the US–India relationship will continue and is unavoidable.[Page xviii]
It is my privilege to express my gratitude to a number of people who have provided inspiration, encouragement, and assistance during the course of the research activities leading to the publication of the present book.
The work described here emanates from my long-term research interests spanning over more than a decade and a half. I first became interested, in the influence of pressure groups in American politics in a course on Comparative Government and Politics, during my undergraduate studies in Political Science at Ramjas College, Delhi University. Since then pressure groups and their lobbying influence in the US policy process became a serious interest, challenging me to look more deeply into the questions such as why the lobbying groups are so powerful in the United States, what legitimizes the lobbying groups in the US society and politics, how they influence the US decision making, and so on. This interest continued when I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to pursue my MA in Political Science from Centre for Political Studies in 1995. Then later on the topic of lobbying groups in the US became the topic of research in my MPhil and PhD in American Studies at School of International Studies, JNU. I continued to work on this project during my stints in strategic and foreign policy think tanks in India—Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Centre for Air Power studies, and Centre for Land Warfare Studies—and then in Australia and New Zealand.
At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of the Indian–American community and of the India Caucus members whose lobbying efforts in the United States beginning in the post-Cold War era of the 1990s made this book possible. This book is an acknowledgment of the Indian–American community especially who immigrated to the United States and emerged as a successful professional ethnic group in America in the 1980s and 1990s who were eager to transcend their economic and professional success in order to participate in the American political process. I would like to acknowledge India Caucus members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It's been remarkable, from Stephen [Page xx]Solarz, the lone vocal supporter of India in the US Congress during the Cold War period to 180 plus India Caucus members in the House of Representatives with the names such as Gary Ackerman and the first Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone and Jim McDermott to the formation of India Caucus in the US Senate in 2004 headed by Hillary Clinton and John Cornyn and their lobbying efforts which culminated in the final arrival of Indian lobbying on Capitol Hill with the passage of US–India civilian nuclear deal in 2008. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appearance at Madison Square Garden to address a gathering of around 20,000 Indian Americans attended by some 42 Congressmen and his much applauded address to the joint session of US Congress would not have been possible without the Indian lobbying.
I would like to acknowledge Professor R.P. Kaushik, my MPhil supervisor, and Professor Chintamani Mahapatra, my PhD supervisor, at American Studies Centre, School of International Studies (SIS), JNU, for their encouragement and academic guidance to pursue the research on Indian–American lobbying. My gratitude also goes to Professor Christopher S. Raj and Professor K.P.J. Vijayalakshmi of American Studies Centre, JNU. I am thankful to Late Mr J.N. Dixit, the former foreign secretary of India and the Indian Ambassador to the United States, who as a visiting professor at American Studies Centre, JNU in 1999–2000 encouraged me to pursue research on Indian lobbying.
I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Indian Council of Historical Research Fellowship for my research at JNU, the Endeavour Fellowship for my Post-Doctoral work at ANU, India Research Fellowship at the Australia India Institute, The University of Melbourne.
The timely assistance of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, and the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is acknowledged. I am thankful to the former Indian ambassador to the US, Lalit Mansingh, who gave his valuable time and apprised me with interesting facts and insights on the formation of India Caucus and Indian lobbying especially on behalf of the Government of India in the United States.
I would like to acknowledge and thank Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, where I was able to undertake [Page xxi]interview and query a number of academics, diplomats, and ministers. Prominent among them were former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Robert Hathaway of Woodrow Wilson Institute, Stephen Cohen of Brookings Institutions, Amit Gupta of Air War College, Dr Praveen Choudhary of Ohio University, and Mihir Meghnani of Hindu American Foundation.
I am thankful to Professor S.D. Muni and Professor C. Raja Mohan under whom I worked for ORF-Brookings Projects on Indian Americans and US Election Watch 2004 which helped me in my research on Indian–American lobbying and India–US relations. I am also thankful to Professor Ajay Dubey of School of International Studies at JNU for his valuable inputs about Indian Diaspora.
I would like to acknowledge the former external affairs ministers of the Government of India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Shree Jaswant Singh and Shree Yashwant Sinha; Shree L.M. Singhvi, former chairman of ORF Late Shree R.K. Mishra, for their valuable time and inputs; and the writings of Dr Shashi Tharoor, whose writings brought a unique perspective as an Indian politician and as a member of Indian Diaspora in the United States. My thanks to both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress Party for providing me with some valuable information on Indian lobbying efforts. My special gratitude to Shree Prabhat Jha (Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha) for his help.
My special thanks to a number of US Congressmen, academics, the Indian–American community in the United States who have been generous enough to give their opinion via email, on the phone, and in person during the course of my research. I would also like to acknowledge the insights and suggestions I received during the April 2013 Mid-West Political Science Conference, at Chicago where I presented a paper on “Changing the Perceptions by Lobbying: The Impact of Indian–American Lobbying in the US Foreign Policy towards India” and during my stay in Washington, D.C. where I interacted with a number of academics and foreign policy experts on the US–India relations.
For this book, I owe intellectual debt to the scholarly works of Allan J. Ciglar, Burdett A. Loomis, Robert Hathaway, Arthur G. Rubinoff, Dennis Kux, Robert J. McMahon, Ramesh Thakur, Sumit Ganguly, Stephen Cohen and Tanmay Kanjilal. Their insights on [Page xxii]interest group politics in the United States, the Indian–American community, India Caucus, the perception about India in the US Congress, and the India–US relations have informed my research.
My gratitude also goes to all my friends at JNU where I spent 10 years of a very intense and involved academic life. It would be difficult to list all of them, but I would like to thank Himanshu Shekhar Mishra and Dwapayan Bose. I would also like to thank my classmates at the Centre for Political Studies and American Studies Centre, the staff and residents of Periyar and Narmada Hostel where I lived during my stay in JNU. Also my gratitude to Professor Kanti Bajpai, then a faculty at the School of International Studies and warden of Periyar Hostel, with whom I would often discuss my research topic and his insights have always been enlightening, and Professor Harsh Pant (Kings College), my batch mate at JNU, for his encouragement for publishing this book.
My gratitude also goes to Professor Robin Jeffrey and Professor Robert Ayson at ANU during my Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 2008 and Professor Ramesh Thakur, Professor Raghbendra Jha, and Professor Rory Medcalf of ANU for their encouragement and support in my academic journey.
My acknowledgment also goes to the Department of Politics and International Relations, the University of Auckland where I was a faculty from 2012 to 2014. I would like to thank Professor Stephen Hoadley and Dr Correy Wallace for their valuable comments on my manuscript, and the support of Professor Katherine Smits and Professor Gerald Chan and all the colleagues at the Department of Politics and International Relations, The University of Auckland. I would also like to acknowledge Professor Dov Bing for his encouragement and valuable insights on Jewish lobby and support of other colleagues and friends during my visiting academic stint (2010– 2011) at the Department of Political Science and Public Policy, The University of Waikato. I also wish to thank New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, especially the Gregory Thwaite and the team of NZIIA, Auckland Branch.
I would like to acknowledge the support from Professor Craig Jeffrey, Professor Amitabh Mattoo, and Mr Jim Varghese and all the staff at the Australia–India Institute, the University of Melbourne where during my research fellowship I gave the final shape to this book.[Page xxiii]
I am thankful to two anonymous reviewers of the book who accepted my manuscript for publication and their praise on the research rigor, information, analysis, and relevance of the book were rewarding for a work that I have been pursuing for a long time and that meant a lot to me.
I want to make a special mention of the team at SAGE Publications, especially Supriya Das and Guneet Kaur Gulati for their professionalism and assistance during the publication of the book.
Above all, I would like to acknowledge my brother Professor Arun Sharma (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, QUT and a past Chair of the Australia India Business Council) who was educated in the US and has been a keen observer of US politics. He has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration throughout my academic career and his valuable insights on the impact of technology and economy on the geo-politics and international security have always been illuminating and his comments on the book have been of great help.
I acknowledge all my brothers and sisters Anil, Arvind, and Dr Amarendra Sharma, a Professor of Economics at Elmira College, United States, for his insights on Indian lobbying and India–US economic ties, and the younger ones Ajay, Anita, Abhay, Anju, and Anjali, and brothers-in-law Nalin, Abhishek, Ajit, and all bhabhis, cousins, family friends, and the next generation of “Sharma Family” of Shree Awadh Kishore Prasad Sharma and Late Girija Devi my parents to whom this book is dedicated.[Page xxiv]
It is obvious that lobbying plays a significant role in the policy formulation in the Unites States, both at domestic and foreign policy levels. While lobbying is as old as the nation-states, significance of lobbying in the US foreign policy process considerably increased with the emergence of the United States as a super power after the World War II. The importance of lobbying in the foreign policy can be judged from the fact that every nation in the world maintains either friendly or inimical relations with the US leaders in office and in opposition in other countries realize that understanding and influencing the decision-making processes and domestic opinion in the US capital can lead to substantial military and economic aid, opportunity to buy weapons, garner support in the United Nations as well as in multilateral lending agencies. Undemocratic regimes know that failure to gain sympathy from American official and public audiences could mean unwanted criticism and bring outside probing into their internal affairs. Accordingly, the domestic agencies, interest groups and foreign governments seek to involve in lobbying activities in Washington to further their respective interests. Various socio-economic, political, legal, institutional, and cultural factors have contributed to the proliferation of lobbying groups in the United States and have given them a unique space in the country's policy process both at the domestic and foreign policy levels.
The very First Amendment to the US Constitution, which incorporates the freedom of assembly clause, upholds the right to organize such groups. The existence of three levels of government—federal, state, and local—and the separation of powers at each level among the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of government produces many points at which policy making can be influenced. Legislative Acts regulating lobbying such as Utilities Holding Company Act 1935, Merchant Marine Act 1936, Foreign Agents Registration Act 1938, Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946, Federal Election Campaign Act 1972, and Lobby Disclosure Act 1995 amended by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, have [Page 245]further legitimized the lobbying activities at the federal and state levels of American politics. The weak and decentralized political party system has enabled the interest groups to automatically come forward to influence the policy making process by lobbying practices. The fundamental changes within the Congress marked by the creation of various committees and subcommittees have given additional space to lobbying groups. Socio-political, economic, and cultural values in a nation of immigrants have considerably facilitated the existence of interest groups and have legitimized their lobbying undertakings in the United States.
The interest groups' lobbying activities have been explained by various theories related to group formation. David Truman, Mancur Olson, Robert Salisbury, and Jack Walker are principal theorists of group formation in the United States. The lobbying activities by Indian Americans and the formation of Indian–American political-pressure groups can be explained with the help of group theories, advocated by the prominent group theorists.
David Truman suggests that group activity is characterized by successive waves of mobilization and counter mobilization. According to him people whose interests are adversely affected by major disturbance within the political environment will band together to improve their lot. It fits into the case of Indian–American community's lobbying case that resorted to counter Pakistani lobbying in the 1990s and lobbied extensively to counter Pakistani lobbying. The formation of India Caucus and other political organizations such as Indian–American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE), Indian–American Committee for Political Awareness (IACPA), and US–India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) could be clearly seen in that context as they needed to counter their adversary group to get their voice heard on Capitol Hill. The Indian government had almost neglected the lobbying in the United States for a long period, but it began to lobbying by engaging the Indian American community groups and by hiring lobbying firms to counter anti-India lobby groups in the 1990s in the US.
Another theorist of group formation Mancur Olson, an economist, advocates that principal incentive for joining a group is the selective benefits that people receive from being members. He says that a key to group formation and especially group survival is the provision [Page 246]of selective benefits. The formation of American Association of Physicians from India (AAPI) is a case in point. Indian doctors joined AAPI for their own benefits. They were racially discriminated, as they faced “glass ceiling” in employment opportunities in the 1980s. Consequently, AAPI came into existence and today it is the only nonpolitical organization of Indian Americans that is involved in extensive lobbying and has survived till now. Many other professional interest groups of Indian Americans came into existence, and the explanation of their formation too lies in the fact that they wanted to improve their lot in American professional life.
Robert Salisbury, a political scientist, says that a group, which has a valuable product and ability to promote that, would probably succeed in creating and maintaining its organization. He gives the credit to the role of a leader or entrepreneur for group formation. In the case of Indian–American organizations, the role of leaders is quite visible. For example and by no means exhaustive, the leadership role of Joy Cherian and Swadesh Chatterjee of IAFPE, Kapil Sharma, Gopal Raju of IACPA, Sanjay Puri of USINPAC, and Ashok Mago of US–India Chamber of Commerce have been significant in the successful lobbying efforts of these organizations. Similarly, Congressmen such as Frank Pallone, Gary Ackerman, Jim McDermott and Ed Royce of India Caucus in the House of Representatives and John Cornyn and Hillary Clinton in the Senate Caucus are worth mentioning. In this context, the leadership provided by Stephen Solarz, Gary Ackerman and Frank Pallone who took immense interests and initiatives in promoting the cause of Indian Americans and India on many crucial times is noteworthy. It was also the continuous efforts of various Co-Chairpersons of India Caucus that saw the number of Caucus members grow from just six to around 180–200. One of the toughest challenges of lobbying for India was in the wake of the nuclear test in 1999. Frank Pallone defended India's nuclear test in 1998 by highlighting the security threat that India was facing due to the China–Pakistan nuclear nexus. He highlighted India's democratic credentials and economic reforms and the business opportunities that it provided in the future for American investors and businesses.
The leadership factor has been an important factor in the prominent Indian–American lobby groups. Another example of leadership was demonstrated during the passage of the nuclear deal bill in the [Page 247]US Congress. The role of community leaders such as Dr Barai and Sanjay Puri, Chairman of the USINPAC was significant. Looking at the division within the India Caucus in Congress over intrinsic worth of the nuclear deal, leading India Caucus members like Gary Ackerman, Frank Pallone, Senators John Cornyn, and Hillary Clinton took the initiative and lobbied to ensure the support of 39 members of India Caucus in the US Senate and more than 180 members of Indian Caucus in the House of Representatives in favor of deal. They focused on highlighting India's democratic credentials, business opportunities for American companies as result of nuclear deal in the field of energy and defence sector, and emphasized on India's non-proliferation record to counter those questioning India's non-signatory status of NNPT.
Whereas political scientist Jack Walker explains the interest group's success by emphasizing the resources available to the various groups that are not equal. According to him, the group formation and activity, that too in contemporary times, depends very much on the nature of groups' financial base. Start-up funds need to be sufficient to begin the group and support its operations. At least initially these funds need to be obtained from outside the membership base, although over time the membership may be able to sustain itself (Walker, 1983). In the case of Indian–American lobbying groups this is very much evident. When measured in per capita income terms the Indian–American community is richest ethnic community in the United States. In the past two decades, they have been generously raising funds and contributing to Presidential and other elections and their political organizations for the cause of Indian Americans and betterment of US–India relations. Most of these active Indian–American interest groups are well funded, and it is one of the important factors in their survival and their effectiveness. It was very much evident from the lobbying during the nuclear deal that the opponents of the nuclear deal could not compete with the well-funded Indian lobbying efforts which were taken by India Caucus, USINPAC, and the organization such as AAPI, IAFPE, IACPA, and so on. They have survived long and have effectively lobbied for their cause. Obviously they have been supported generously by the affluent Indian–American community. It is obvious that these theories of group formation explains the formation, proliferation, and success of Indian–American political and lobby groups.[Page 248]
Indian Americans' success in protecting group interests in areas, such as immigration policy, anti-discrimination legislation, and countering pro-Pakistani tendencies, is also due to their focused and dedicated lobbying efforts. However, looking at the professional success and achievements of Indian Americans in the United States in comparatively shorter duration than several other ethnic immigrants (who took several generations to achieve the same) one can say that their level of political activities is not that impressive. The Indian–American community is a way behind the Hispanics, Jews, and African Americans.
Political inactivity or low level of political participation by the Indian community can be attributed to many factors. Their brown skin and alien culture might have inhibited Indian American from playing an active role in American political process largely dominated by White Anglo-Saxon Community. Another great impediment comes from within the community itself. Indians are not well organized and are a divided lot by language, religion, region, and caste. Third reason seems to have emanated from their economic success. As a prosperous community, most Indians in the United States appear quite content with the status quo and show little interest in politics.
Nonetheless, there has been gradual progress in the political activities of Indian Americans since early 1990s. The political inactivity of Indian Americans is increasingly becoming things of the past. The new activism was caused by perceived discrimination in employment opportunities and restrictive immigration policies. As a result, the professional and material advancement, initially as immigrants, have finally made the Indian–American community active and awaken. Commensurate to their success in professional life they are now eager to assert in the political arena of America life. There seems to be a realization among the Indian American community that the political activism must accompany their professional and economic success and their growing population in the United States to protect and enhance the community's interest.
The political activism of Indian Americans was initially limited to protest against the restrictive US immigration and naturalization laws. Subsequently, the force was against the racial discrimination and ethnic violence. During the 1970s and 1980s, Indian Americans organized themselves against glass ceiling and racial discrimination, and for the protection of minority rights.[Page 249]
But after 1990s there has been a significant increase in their participation in direct politics, fund raising activities, and indirect and direct lobbying through various Indian–American organizations. The success of lobbying efforts of India and Indian Americans in recent years is largely due to professional success especially in the medical field and information technology; their growing number in the United States; the end of the Cold War allowing more space for the lobbying activities; the opening up of Indian economy which grabbed the attention of American businessman and investors; and the convergence of world views of America and India on many of the strategic, security, and international issues.
All these developments enabled Indian Americans to prevail over Pakistani lobbyists in the new context of the post-Cold War era except in few instances, such as amendment to Pressler law, aid to Pakistan and declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state. The change in the US policy toward India after the Cold War; the crumbling of Pakistan as a state both institutionally and economically; the linkages of almost all the terrorist organizations with Pakistan have also put hindrances in the way of successful lobbying by Pakistani Americans and Pakistan in recent years. Some of the significant developments over the past couple of years have further weakened Pakistan's lobbying. For instance, in 2011 the American forces were able to track down and kill Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad near Pakistani military headquarters. The declaration by the US Government about a bounty of $10 million on Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Jamat-ul-Dawa, a cover organization for the most dreaded Islamic terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taeba, for his role in Mumbai terror attack in 2008 in which the US citizens were targeted and killed. These incidents have raised suspicion on the role of Pakistan in the US-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan, and have further weakened the already slackening Pakistan lobby in Washington.
Part of the success of Indian lobby groups can be explained by their approach. Indian Americans are known as “Model Minority” group, not because of high level of education and influences, but because of their approach toward American political system and society. They have lobbied for the community and India without being critical of the American political system, and have always shown the respect to democratic norms prevalent in the United States. They have lobbied [Page 250]through institutional channels and exercising moderation coupled with their affluent status has resulted in the favorable response for Indian association from the US Government.
The success is, however, relative as there are enormous hurdles on the way. For example, there are more than 1,000 Indian–American registered organizations but only very few are active in the politics. Indian lobby, which has emulated lobbying techniques of the Jewish lobby and has been getting considerable support from the Jewish lobby as well, is a way behind Jewish lobby's outstanding success in gaining so much goodwill and support for Israel in the US.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the strongest ethnic lobby groups in the United States and it has effectively gained control of virtually all of Capitol Hill's action on the Middle-East policy. The AIPAC has been successful to secure American foreign assistance for Israel on the most favorable terms possible and Israel has been the single largest recipient of American foreign aid for decades—$3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year.
The AIPAC has successfully promoted increased cooperation between America and Israel, such as joint works on various weapon systems, and intelligence sharing. It has blocked a number of weapons sales to Arab nations that might have posed threats to Israel's security and to America's interest in the region.
But, despite its strong hold on Capitol Hill, Jews–American lobby groups have failed in its lobbying effort at certain instance. For example, in the early 1980s AIPAC could not stop the United States by selling Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia. Jews Americans lobbied hard to stop the weapon missile system sale to Saudi Arabia by the US administration but failed. Again in 1991 they had to face the defeat with regard to loan grant. Israeli lobby failed to persuade President Bush for $10 billion loan grant for Israel. This was a severe blow to the Jews lobby in the United States. But these are rare occasions in the history of Israeli lobby and the record shows that they have been simply unchallenged when it comes to their lobbying impact on many matters which affect Jews American and Israel.
Indian Americans appear are in the process of transforming their professional success into political capital. Indian Americans are also increasingly developing contacts with individual senators, [Page 251]representatives, and Congressional staff even although there is a long way to go. Any group that seeks to influence the US national public policy needs to establish an office in Washington, D.C. Till recently only two Indian–American professional organizations, AAPI and the Asian–American Hotel Owners Association had so far started that process.
One of the major obstacles preventing the creation of effective public affairs organization is that some Indian–American groups are eager to assume this role for themselves, but are not willing to cooperate on behalf of the welfare of the entire community. Too many Indian–American organizations, many with similar names and objectives, send confusing signals to the members of Congress. The members do not know which organization is really reflective or representative of the community. Basically, too many organizations dilute the effectiveness. The Indian–American community has presence in all the 50 states. There is not a single Congressional district that does not have at least 100 Indians. However, they have not established constituent-based relations with every member of Congress.
The Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans is one of the largest of its kind in the US Congress. Since its inception in 1993 it has been lobbying for the cause of Indian Americans and for the betterment of US–India relations. India Caucus has also supported the cause of India and Indian Americans on matters, such as immigration, family reunification, and civil rights. Lobbying efforts by Caucus members have focused on economic development and foreign assistance too. Their lobbying effort not only countered anti-India measures, but also fought for foreign assistance to India for meeting natural calamities, agricultural development, and other purposes, such as medical, energy and environment, science and technology. They have done so through debating in the US Congress, by press releases and statements, by enlisting floor speakers, lining up votes, and placing materials in the Congressional Record.
India Caucus members have lobbied extensively by giving statements, issuing press releases and introducing legislations in the House by applauding India's democratic credentials, praising [Page 252]India's economic reforms and highlighting India's security concerns in a volatile region. The influential Caucus members such as Frank Pallone, Jim McDermott, Ed Royce, Gary Ackerman, Wexler, Helms, Biden have been very vocal on these matters. Even India Caucus has limitation and its share of criticisms too. It has been criticized on the ground that a majority of India Caucus members hardly attend Caucus meetings or Indian–American events, and have not made any comments in the Congress on issues of importance to the community. Essentially a few members of Caucus carry the load of the entire organization. This is because Indian Americans, who convinced their representatives to join the Caucus, failed to question them for not being active. Robert Hathaway, Policy Fellow and the former Director Asia Program of Woodrow Wilson International Centre Asia and who has observed the Caucus since its inception, pointed out that may be only 20 members are active and suggested that members needed to be pushed to be more serious in their role to make the Caucus more effective in the House.
In fact, although the India Caucus is one of the largest of its kind, only a fraction of its members are concerned for helping the Indian–American community or making a tangible contribution to improving India–US relations. In the late 1990s, the Caucus was criticized for not doing anything substantial for advancing the US–India relations and especially for the Indian-American community's matters. The Caucus also received flak for their being at ease to just add more names to the India Caucus list and make public statements about their claim through press releases and media bites. The Indian American community was taken presupposed, as suggested by a prominent India Caucus member.
For example, Representative McDermott revealed that he along with Robert Menendez had tried to garner the support for the Congressional appropriation of $120 million for earthquake relief in Gujarat in 2001. The difficulty in getting Congressional support on India issue, he noted that even an amendment seeking $20 million failed to get the necessary nod in the House. The influential Republicans and prominent members of India Caucus refused to co-sponsor it since the administration convinced them that seeking such an appropriation would complicate [Page 253]President George W Bush's tax bill.1 Although Caucus claims a membership of more than hundred, only a couple dozen of these members take an active interest in the affairs of the Indian American community and very few about India. Personal rivalries have also affected the Caucus' efficacy, although by its very nature this development is difficult to document. Besides, the efficiency of Caucus in getting things done at Hill was confined to the House of Representatives only.
But past 2002 and especially after the formation of India Caucus in the US Senate in 2004, these criticisms began to take a backstage as the contribution of the lobbying efforts of India Caucus began to be reflected in the way India was perceived in the US policy making circle and progress towards the US–India strategic partnership. Lalit Mansingh, then Chief of the Mission of India in the US and former Foreign Secretary of India, who was pivotal in foresight and initiative to shape the events that ultimately led to the formation of India Caucus in the US Senate, noted that the idea of a Caucus in the Senate dedicated to a single country was new and needed to overcome several hurdles.2 The formation of the India Caucus with more than 25 percent of the Senate members was possible because of the positive perceptions about India in the US Congress which was very much the combined efforts of the India lobbying represented by the India Caucus and Indian American community and India's growing strategic and economic importance. Their role in the successful passage of the US–India nuclear deal in both the Houses of the Congress put all the ineffectiveness and other criticism of India Caucus on the backstage. The strengthening and deepening of the US–India strategic partnership continue to endorse their lobbying efforts and credentials.
The very presence of India Caucus in both the Houses of Congress has given India and Indian Americans a strong platform in the US policymaking system. Hathaway too concedes that the India Caucus to an important extent is responsible for a sea-change in the attitude [Page 254]of members of Congress about India and about the importance of the US–India relationship. In fact, the India Caucus has indeed come a long way since its formation and has provided an institutional base at Hill which was totally negligible during the Cold War period.
The importance and role of lobbying in the process cannot be underestimated. The US–India relations used to be very strained during the Cold War years. The US legislators used to have very little knowledge of India or interest in India. Indian Republic seldom got the attention of America lawmakers during the first 45–50 years of its existence. Ironically, there was not such respect and recognition for India as the world's largest democracy in the US Congress. But today there is a positive image of India in the US Congress. Today one can find a substantial number of legislators in both the Houses of Congress declaring their friendship for India. They defend India on many issues and applaud it for its commitment toward democratic principles, a successful democratic government, for its economic progress and reforms, and so on. The India Caucus members regularly visit India to show their friendship, concern, and to better ties between the two countries. Legislative attempts to cut US foreign aid to India—long an annual tradition in the House of Representatives—is now a story of the past. India Caucus members have been able to curb anti-India moves and have substantially marginalized the anti-India lobby in Washington. They try to ensure that there are no adverse comments on India based on Indian voting record in UN, human rights condition at home or on Kashmir issue or for any other matter which is motivated by the opposition lobbying groups to demean India.
The net result of lobbying effort of India Caucus is that there is significant and remarkable change in the perceptions and attitudes of Congress toward India. And with the formation of India Caucus in the US Senate, Indian lobby has grown in strength and their lobbying strategy has evolved too.
The Indian lobbying strategy has evolved over a period. In the beginning, Indian lobbying primarily aimed at countering the anti-India propaganda by its adversary, the Pakistani lobby groups and some staunch anti-India Congressmen such as Congressman Dan Burton. But the real testing time for lobbying was visible after nuclear test by India and the Kargil War in 1999. India's nuclear test [Page 255]in May 1998 brought a significant change in Indian lobbying. It was a watershed moment for the way India sought to cultivate the US Government. Intensive lobbying effort involved for the first time the US administration to see India–Pak conflict more objectively. The Indian–American community mobilized themselves in a more efficient and focused manner than ever before. Indian lobby successfully defended the nuclear test on ground of the security threat faced by India, cleared apprehensions about India's nuclear posture, put forth New Delhi's standpoint on Kashmir issue and highlighted Pakistan's unprovoked armed intrusion in Kargil.
The policy makers viewed the whole episode of Kargil in impartial way and found that Pakistan was guilty in the conflict. Clinton's visit to India in 2000 improved relations between the two nations perhaps would not have been possible without lobbying efforts in the United States. Clinton changed his position from punishing India for the nuclear “transgressions” to building a new partnership, despite the continuing differences over the nuclear issues, is evidence of lobbying effort. The US–India strategic engagement began to unfold under the Clinton–Vajpayee and Bush–Vajpayee governments. However, it was during the passage of the US–India Civilian Nuclear Agreement Bill in the US Congress that the real clout of Indian lobbying was witnessed and its final arrival was stamped. Indian lobbying, during the passage of the nuclear deal bill, was a well-coordinated lobbying effort by the Manmohan Singh Government in which the Indian American community and their leaders, India Caucus, business groups and lobbying firms, and Prime Minister's special envoy for the nuclear deal Shyam Saran, then Foreign Secretary of India put a united lobbying endeavor. The positive aspects of the nuclear deal were highlighted, those opposing the bill were snubbed and the safe passage of the bill at every stage in the US legislature was ensured (Sharma).3
[Page 256]Over the past decade and a half, the US–India relation has been moving in a positive direction. Both the countries have been cooperating on the issue of counter terrorism, their views converge on stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, protecting the sea lanes of communication, energy security, and other human security issues. They have been working to strengthen the global trading system, though differences are there. High-ranking officials on both sides regularly consult on regional and global diplomatic issues. Frequent joint exercises between the two military forces have become commonplace. Both sides work to eliminate infectious diseases and trafficking in persons. They have been sharing their views and been in close consultation on environmental and climate-change issues. India's aspiration to become a great power and its pro-active foreign policy for a bigger role in the international order is encouraged and supported by the United States. India's bid for the permanent membership in the UN Security Council is supported by the US, first endorsed by the George W. Bush administration and then openly supported by the President Barack Obama in the Indian Parliament during his visit to India in November 2010. The latest Modi-Obama meeting in 2016 reaffirmed the deepening partnership with the US–India joint statement covered a broad range of issues including the US continued open support to India's bid for the UNSC permanent seat, membership to the international organizations such as Nuclear Suppliers Group and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. At the same time, people-to-people contacts and cultural links between India and the United States have grown stronger.
No longer does the United States fixate on India's nuclear weapons and missile programs. American nagging is silent on these subjects and India has been incorporated in the global nuclear order in indirect way by the nuclear exception in the form of nuclear deal. Washington no longer views its relationship with India through a prism that must always include Pakistan–India's next-door neighbor. In short, the United States perceives India as a strategic partner and not as an “irritating recalcitrant.” In fact, there have been few instances in history in which the conceptualization and core components of a bilateral relationship, especially between two democracies, have been so transformed in so short a time by peaceful means.
However, in the post-nuclear deal phase, the US–India relationship went backstage, so did the Indian lobby. The expected momentum in [Page 257]the progress on the various issues of the US–India strategic partnership slowed down. The Congress-led UPA II government failed to reach out to the Indian–American community and the importance of lobbying was neglected. As a result, there were issues which could not attract the Indian lobbying attention. For example, despite the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and a series of terrorist attacks in the Indian cities, the most of which were backed Pakistan-backed terrorist organizations, the Indian lobby coalition seemed unmoved. Neither the Indian–American organizations nor India Caucus members were able to bring any pressure on the US administration in this regard. Unlike the lapsed Kerry–Lugar bill, the India Caucus members could not make provision in the American military aid to Pakistan to stop supporting terror outfits in Pakistan involved in terror attacks in India. Indian lobbying also could not do much in terms of resolving the diplomatic row on Devyani Khobragade issue, impasse over the nuclear liability bill or act when the US manufacturing association and big pharmaceutical companies unleashed a severe campaign against India in 2014. On top of that, India's ineffective foreign policy could not maintain the rate of knots of the India–US strategic partnership. And from the United States side, the priority of the Obama administration had also shifted to other major international issues.
However, the resounding victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has created hope and expectations in the nation of around 1.2 billion people. Modi is faced with the challenge of reviving India's economy and creating jobs for its young demography. India needs foreign investment and a comprehensive international collaboration for its development agenda. In this India's relationship with the United States is vital. Modi has rejuvenated the India–US relationship and introduced a new approach to the Indian lobbying. This new modus operandi can be seen in Modi's diplomacy by establishing personal rapport with foreign leaders and unprecedented ability to connect with Indian Diaspora by addressing them directly which began with the United States at Madison Square Garden, and is being replicated in almost all parts of the globe where there is a sizeable number of the Indian Diaspora. Modi's September 2014 Madison Square Garden appearance was unique which was received by a thumping applaud from around 20,000 Indian Americans and 40 Congressmen—the two main pillars of the Indian lobbying in the United States.[Page 258]
In addition, Modi's leadership style of establishing personal rapport with President Barack Obama has not only helped India and the United States to reach on a common and acceptable point on some of the most pressing and challenging issues confronting the US–India bilateral ties but also the world. For example, during the Paris Climate Conference held in December 2015, India's opposition to Paris climate change issue prior to the debate was seen as India being a stumbling block to the resolution on climate change (Davenport and Barry, 2015; Davenport and Harris, 2015). But it was Modi who went his own way to strike the deal on agreeable terms with Obama in the Paris Conference on climate change resolution. Unlike the other world leaders who go for the media and press release to connect with people in America, Modi has taken a different approach reflected in his penchant for addressing the community gathering in a big number. Modi has taken advantage of Indian Americans' increased political awareness and activism to enhance India's presence in the United States, and is giving an image of India that is being welcomed by American society, business, and political circles. Modi is leveraging the Indian lobbying to put India's position on the global stage where the United States nod matters.
The enthusiasm generated among the Indian–American community could be seen in Narula, who came to the United States 17 years ago, first working in the garment industry, now has his own company with more than, 200 employees who was part of the host committee for PM Modi's visit to the United States in September 2014, who expressed “We attempted to do business in India. I hope Modi will look into streamlining issues such as VAT, the role of FDI (foreign direct investment) and find a way for American businesses to not have to go through 19 red tape bureaucracies” (The Times of India, 2014b). Not only Narula, but this expectation is visible across the Indian–American community, and the community leaders, the US–India business lobby, as well as the Congressmen, especially who are in the list of India Caucus in the US Congress.
Under Modi government, many Indian Americans have seen a hope in the revival of India's economy and the way toward development. Indian Americans have often complained about the red tapism, obstinate bureaucracy, corruption, the tax system, and the dilapidated infrastructure, the obstacles that they have been facing [Page 259]for doing business in India. Modi' government's “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives, and the measures taken in regard to economic reforms and attract FDIs in India have created a positive environment among Indian–American community, who are also interested in doing business in India. The recent visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minsiter Sushma Swaraj and and Indian finance Minister Arun Jaitely, and their meetings with US business community and movers and shakers of India–US relations have further added to their confidence.
However, in the above context, it would be equally important how Prime Minister Modi deals with the controversies surrounding the lobbying in India. The concept of lobbying in India is totally misunderstood including among the political class. There is a negative perception about lobbying in India which surfaced during the Wal-Mart disclosure of its money spent in total of $25 million over the four years on lobbying in the United States which also included on the matters related to its access to India market. But it became a big issue of corruption in the Indian Parliament and the BJP then leading opposition party alleged that Wal-Mart bribed the Indian Government officials for getting access to Indian market. But the investigation found that Wal-Mart's disclosure report was totally in compliance with US lobbying regulations acts. In fact, there is a fundamental difference between the United States and India on the way the concept of lobbying is perceived. This issue would become important as more US companies are going to invest in India. Not only there is an absence of the law on lobbying in India, but the concept of lobbying is not even acknowledged in the Indian political system. The misperception about lobbying in India might hamper US-based efforts to enhance economic ties. There is a need of better understanding of the concept of lobbying as more and more United States and foreign companies would be looking to invest in India. The provision of a law dealing with the concept of lobbying on dealings between private sector and the Government of India would make conducive environment for the foreign investment and bring transparency to the system.
Prime Minister Modi's three visits to the United States and President Obama's India visit on Republic Day on 26 January 2015 have rejuvenated the India–US strategic partnership, with emphasis [Page 260]on enhancing the economic and trade relationship in addition to deepening strategic and defence ties. This has brought a new enthusiasm in the various modules of Indian lobbying.
During his US visits, Modi not only met the Indian lobbying modules, but also engaged with the Jewish lobby and the Jewish community leaders. The power of the Jewish lobby in terms of its organizational strength, financial capability, and its impact on the US foreign policy in the Middle East and especially the US policy toward Israel is well known and well documented. Though India–Israel relation has bi-partisan approval (a full-fledged diplomatic ties was established in 1992 by the PM Narsimha Rao-led Congress government), but the ties deepened during Prime Minister Vajpayee-led BJP/NDA government (for detail on the evolving India–Israel relations, see Sharma and Bing, 2015). Modi was the second Prime Minister after Prime Minister Vajpayee who held meetings with Jewish community in the United States and is going to be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. As discussed in the previous chapter, it is clear that Indian lobbying considers Jewish lobby as a “Model” to be followed and the Jewish lobby has supported the Indian lobbying on most of the crucial issues and helped Indian lobbying for their cause toward the betterment of India-US relations. Modi's meeting with the Jewish community and his impending visit to Israel is all set to enhance Indian lobby in the United States. His meeting with the different segments of Indian lobbying with special focus on highly successful professional and business class of Indian Americans has re-energized the Indian lobby. After all, the interest groups lobby continues to be of utmost importance, and it is the powerful lobby groups that ultimately decide the fate of many policies in the United States.
In this context, it is important to acknowledge that success of Indian–American lobby is also due to the changing perception about India in the American corporate sector which wields the profound influence in the American political system. Arun Sharma, who was educated in the United States, a past National Chair of the Australia India Business Council and a long-time keen observer of America, suggests that the emergence of CEOs of Indian origin in the mid-1990s added greater credibility to the Indian–American lobbying effort. Though in 1980s Indians had demonstrated great professional [Page 261]success as doctors, engineers, academics, and small business owners, and were beginning to make a mark in the Information Technology sector, they were absent from the highest levels of mainstream corporate America. This began to change with the emergence of Indian origin Chief Executive Officers (CEO) such as Rajat Gupta at Mckinsey & Company and Gangwal at US Airway in mid-1990s to Indra Noovi at PepsiCo and Vikram Pandit at Citigroup in the 2000s. This was because the revenues of the American companies from outside America started becoming significant and that provided opportunities for corporate leaders with the global outlook in which the Indian origin corporate leaders became very competitive. This provided an added level of credibility to the Indian lobbying effort which had started to change the perception at corporate level which ultimately helped the overall Indian lobbying effort. The presence of Indian Americans in top rank of corporate America is being replicated in the Information Technology companies sector with CEOs such as Sunder Pichai at Google and Satya Nadela at Microsoft. The emergence of Indian origin CEOs in Information Technology companies further likely to strengthen the Indian lobbying as both the nations are keen to enhance their economic engagement.
Obama–Modi may have co-authored a column in The Washington Post and pledged to walk together in the Twenty-First century, in reality the US foreign policy is not what it looks like. This famous reply to a delegation of industrialist by President Franklin D. Roosevelt remains relevant, “Okay, you've convinced me. Now go out there and bring pressure on me,” Modi is not unfamiliar with this. Once again the lobbying has acquired an importance in the US–India relationship under the new approach of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Above all, the change in perception about India in the United States could be seen from the top US officials and the recent two Presidents namely George W. Bush and President Barack Obama openly advocating their support for India as a great power in the Twenty-First century. The 2016 Presidential election front runner from both the parties Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have welcomed India's progress and look forward to engage India constructively. The support for the US–India relations is bipartisan and is institutionalized on many fronts. Both the nations' perceptions converge on the emerging strategic geometry in the context of a [Page 262]rising military China in the Indo-Pacific region, the security threats emanating from the Islamic radicalism and on many global commons. Today the US India relation, based on democratic values and principles, is marked by unprecedented convergence of interests in the emerging geo-strategic and geo-economic realities of the present world which will define the global order in the twenty-first century.
Notwithstanding ceaseless efforts of Indian and American Governments to forge a strategic partnership between the two countries, the process can be de-railed by lobbyists. To give further concrete shape and strengthen the strategic partnership between the world's two largest democracies, the lobbying—an inescapable reality of the American political system—will continue to be relevant, indispensable, and unavoidable.
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