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Campaign by Indian-Americans led to Indo-US civil N-deal: Book

PTI 03 Nov 2014, 9:52:08 AM IST
PTI

Washington: It was a grassroot campaign by Indian-Americans, who literally flooded their lawmakers with emails, letters and faxes, that saw the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement pass through the Congress, says a new book on the unprecedented coming together of the community for the deal.

Leading Indian-American entrepreneur and activist Swadesh Chatterjee in his book 'Building Bridges: How Indian-Americans Brought the United States and India Closer Together', provides a first-hand account of the involvement of the influential community in getting the deal through the US Congress.

"The Indian government hired high-powered and high-priced lobbyists to press their case, but it was really the Indian-American community that took the lead in the campaign for civil nuclear agreement," writes Chatterjee.

The book hit the stores in the US this week while its Indian edition is expected to be released later this year.

"Swadesh, you are wasting your time," the then powerful Congressman, Gary Ackerman, a leading lawmaker of the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans told him, when he went and met him and sought his support.

"This deal is dead on arrival," Ackerman told Chatterjee, according to the book.

"There were few takers for the bill," Chatterjee said.

"But we were determined to get the bill through the Congress. This we strongly felt was in the best interest of both India and the US. We believed that this was the golden opportunity for the two countries to come together," Chatterjee said.

Chatterjee, who had received the prestigious 'Padma Bhushan' award in 2001 for his role in lifting of American sanctions after Indian nuclear tests, was the one who received the first call from the then Indian Ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, after the then US President, George W Bush, announced the outline of the civil nuclear deal during his trip to India in March 2006.

"Swadesh, I need your help getting this accord through Congress," Sen was quoted as saying in the book.

"How can we get this done? Who should U reach out to? What organizations should I work with?" the Ambassador asked.

And thereafter Chatterjee, a resident of North Carolina and a successful entrepreneur, made it a mission to get the deal through the Congress.

"The task was not that easy. It was like moving a mountain. But we finally did it," he said.

When a small group of some 20 top Indian Americans met Sen at a club near the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, Chatterjee told the job was not that easy.

"We need to unite Indian Americans and work together, but as you all know, we are two million Indian Americans, but we have 10 million egoes. We need to keep those egos in the deep freezer for a few years," Chatterjee told the group.