The Indian-American Lobby

Developing clout

Joshua Kurlantzick writes about the growing influence in The New Republic (via Daniel Drezner). While Indian-Americans were generally content living their own quiet apolitical lives, 9/11 seems to have galvanised them into action. Indian-Americans have organised themselves into groups such as the US-India Political Action Committee, Indian American Leadership Initiative and the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin with varying objectives and degrees of political ambition.

Only two years old, USINPAC already has organized House and Senate India caucuses; gained some 27,000 members; helped defeat the candidacy of Republican congressman Dan Burton for chair of the House International Relations Subcommittee on South Asia (Burton is perceived by some as unfriendly to India); and, as The Washington Times has reported, convinced most of the leading Democratic presidential candidates to offer position papers on Washington’s relationship with Delhi. Working with AIPAC, it has also pushed the White House to make clear certification of Pakistan’s participation in the war on terror a prerequisite for Islamabad receiving U.S. aid. [TNR]

Needless to say, both Democrats and Republicans are wooing the Indian-American lobby. Republicans because Indian-Americans are richer and tend to own businesses, Democrats because Indian-Americans tend to favour liberal social policies.

Unity – that old lesson

My own observation of Indian organisations is that once they taste success, they tend to fracture along regional and community lines: the Indian Association ends up splitting into (among others) Bengal Society, a Mysore Sangha, a Maharasthra Mandal, a Sikh Association and a Tamil Society. While these organisations are created to pursue social and cultural issues unique to the community, they end up diluting the political strength of the overall Indian lobby. The continued success of the Indian-American lobby lies in being able to remain politically united on the back of a common Indian-American identity.