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Growing influence of Indian diaspora in US politics

  • Published at 07:32 pm May 6th, 2021
India United States Diaspora
File Photo: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves after addressing a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on June 8, 2016 AFP

The Indian diaspora is considered as one of the fastest-growing and most prosperous minority groups in US

Last month, when India’s Covid-19 death toll surpassed a record 2,000 people in a single day, the United States pledged a vast amount of medical supplies to India along with 60 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s fight against coronavirus.  

US Representative Ro Khanna, Democratic vice chair of the Congressional Caucus on India, told Reuters that Indian-American billionaire and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla and other Indian-American tech executives at Google, IBM, and Microsoft were working closely with the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India. The caucus has been engaged in enhancing the capability of Indian hospitals and other facilities with supplies of oxygen and other urgently needed medical equipment. 

The group is also pushing the US government to do more for India as a surge in infections overwhelms the country’s entire healthcare system. 

On the other hand, the US Chamber of Commerce, the largest US business lobby, along with CEOs from 40 firms last month launched a separate task force focused on providing India with critical medical supplies and other assistance. 

How did the Indian diaspora in the US manage to assert such influence in US politics and the country’s decision-making process? 

Shekar Narasimhan, a long-time Democratic fundraiser who chairs a super PAC focused on mobilizing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, told Politico: “In decades working as an advocate on behalf of the Indian American community, nothing like this had ever happened before. 

“I cannot think of a single example where we have had this kind of access before,” Narasimhan said. 

From increasing voter turnout to political donations and the growing number of Indian Americans entering electoral politics, the Indian diaspora and their offspring have emerged as one of the most powerful political forces in the United States.

The Indian-American population in the US has been growing steadily over the past few decades. 

There are close to 4 million people of Indian descent in the United States. They are also considered as one of the fastest-growing and most developed minority groups in the country. 

After years of trying to build its influence - raising money, supporting candidates, building a ground game - the Indian-American political world is starting to feel a sense of actual power in the Biden-Harris administration. 

“Now we are at a point where we know that when Indian-Americans call, the highest levels of the administration listen,” Sanjeev Joshipura, executive director of Indiaspora, a nonpartisan network of Indian-American leaders, told Politico. 

According to Joshipura, the Indian-American community raised $20 million to $30 million for political candidates across both parties in the 2020 presidential election alone. 

New polling from Narasimhan’s AAPI Victory Fund has found that, across 48 states, the number of votes cast by Asian-Americans, including Indian-Americans, increased by a staggering 46% in 2020, a trend which mostly benefited Democrats across the country. An estimated 65-70% of Indian-Americans voted for President Joe Biden in 2020. 

This trend of voter turnout explains the administration’s swift response to India’s Covid-19 crisis. 

“In a 48-hour period, you saw the US government go from 0 to 60,” Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Politico in an interview.

“That’s because Indian-Americans mobilized. They went on social media, they called everyone they knew in government, they called everyone they contributed money to.”

Apart from this massive mobilization of the Indian-American community, Indian-Americans serving in the US Congress have also advocated for action to help India. 

On May 6, US President Joe Biden threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, a proposal led by India and South Africa to waive protections for some patents and technology and boost vaccine production in developing countries.

The Biden administration’s efforts till date to assist India to fight the second wave of Covid-19, which has led to a collapse of the country’s healthcare system, represents the most momentous win for the entire Indian diaspora in the US, a win which also demonstrates the diaspora’s growing influence in US politics. 

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