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June 16, 2006


Dr. Ashok Sharma

In fact much talked about Indo-US Nuclear Deal,meant to overcome India's looming energy crisis, would not have been passed in the US Congress without the intense lobbying effort by Indian Americans alongwith US India Business Council and Lobbying firms hired by Indian Government. Indian diaspora in the United Sttaes has lobbied in recent years not only for their benefits but also for the betterment of US-India relations.

For many Indian Americans this increasingly contentious battle in Congress was a unique opportunity to demonstrate their growing political influence in their adopted country. Looking at the divisions within the India Caucus in Congress over the intrinsic worth of the deal, Indian Americans, along with leading India Caucus members Garry Ackerman, Frank Pallone, John Cornyn and Indian American organizations lobbied to ensure the safe passage of the nuclear bill.

India Americans reached out to the 43 member Black Caucus and 20 member Hispanic Caucus to expand its legislative support. India's vote against the Iranian nuclear programme helped Indian Americans in confirming support from the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for the deal.

Much of the lobbying effort of Indian Americans was focussed on lawmakers from the New York metropolitan region, with its heavy concentration of Indian-Americans. USINPAC is organizing a fundraiser this month for Senator Hillary Clinton, co-chairwoman of the Senate's 39-member India Caucus. Her support was deemed crucial. Most members of the India Caucus are Democrats, but many of them had shown reluctance in supporting the bill, since they take the nuclear non-proliferation agenda very seriously. The support of Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton, former President and a prominent Democratic leader, who seriously pursued non-proliferation policies, ensured the support of a majority of the Democrats for the nuclear pact.

In addition, the United States -India Business Council (USIBC) and Indian American Friendship Council are also involved in lobbying for the nuclear deal.
Looking at the examples of powerful influence of ethnic lobby groups, like the Jewish Americans and business groups on US foreign policy making in the past, Indian Diaspora too exploited the lobbying practice in the US Congress to confirm the nuclear, which is now known as Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act 2006.

Dr. Ashok Sharma is with Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi.

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