Taken aback at the sharp anti-India sentiments that manifested itself in the US Congress recently, both India and the US are taking corrective steps to restore the balance.
George Holding ® from South Carolina made the most spirited defence of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Describing Article 370 as an “outdated provision of law that the Indian Constitution recognised as “temporary”, he said the steps that Prime Minister Modi and Indian Parliament have taken “are needed, they’re good for the long-term stability of the region, and they should be applauded”.
Criticising Pakistan’s continued policy of cross-border terrorism, Holding, the co-chair of the India Caucus, said, “Pakistan-based terror groups have recently floated posters warning common citizens against venturing out, going to work, and visiting public places. The groups have continued to engage in cross-border terrorism and have attacked civilians and children. These militant groups have also attacked migrant workers and those who are involved in the apple business which is the chief crop of Kashmir.”
The Modi government, he said, was right to address a situation which was being used by forces to foment terrorism and separatism. “The Modi government had to make a decision on whether to continue with the old policy or pursue progress by changing the region’s legal status.”
For its part, the Indian government is improving its own Congressional outreach processes, putting together what officials called a comprehensive strategy. This comes after it was concluded that many of the officials in the mission have been less than outgoing, coming late for meetings and refusing to take questions from their interlocutors etc leading to several complaints about their efforts.
The strategy includes focused outreach with key Congress leaders by Indian ambassador Harsh Shringla. Indian officials are increasing the frequency and intensity of their briefings of Congressional staffers and aides, most of whom are very powerful and hold a strong influence with the lawmakers.
Over the next few weeks, Indian officials from the mission are expected to meet a large number of Congress leaders in their constituencies, particularly those having large number of Indian community members.
Engaging the Capitol Hill is a full time effort, but the Indian mission has traditionally put in a few political officers on the job. Sources said this would be intensified over the coming weeks. For instance, ambassador Shringla met Democrat Congressman Brad Sherman on Thursday to address the differences.
Sherman used to be more positive about India, but at a recent foreign relations committee hearing, he seemed hostile to India. Both sides were working to restore the relationship, sources said.
This is important since Pakistan has put in resources and lobbying organisations to counter India in different ways, even through disinformation and misleading statements.