- Attendees included senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle as well as AAPI leadership and prominent members of the community.
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) hosted an event on Capitol Hill on Sept. 21 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. Several U.S. Senators and Congressmen from both sides of the aisle participated in the celebration and stressed the need to strengthen U.S.-India relationship. A strong India means a strong U.S., they said, as they pledged to work towards strengthening the relationship between the two largest democratic countries of the world at a time when the world is undergoing several changes and facing numerous challenges. They also praised the contributions and achievements of physicians of Indian origin and the larger Indian American community. Several AAPI leadership and prominent members of the community attended the event as well.
Dr. Sampat Shivangi, chair of AAPI Legislative Committee, one of the key organizers of the Capitol Hill event, noted that Indian-Americans have a key role to play in the Indo-U.S. relationship. “It is a proud moment for every Indian, living in every part of the world to see the progress that our motherland has achieved since its independence 75 years ago,” he said in an AAPI press release.
In his welcome address, AAPI President Dr. Ravi Kolli, said the 75th anniversary of India’s independence is “a milestone filled with feelings of sense of pride and joy for all the accomplishments and progress we have made while preserving our integrity, unity, core values of freedoms, democracy and respect for diverse cultures and the groups that live and thrive in our beloved motherland.” He noted the “great strides” India has made “in various sectors of the economy lifting over 270 million out of poverty in the past decade or so.”
In his keynote address, India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu talked about the “close connection between the two countries,” which is “today driven by the leadership of the two largest democracies of the world.” He acknowledged the “vibrant and dynamic Indian American community represented in this country,” adding that their success as professionals –- doctors, technocrats, scientists and entrepreneurs — “has been an inspiration to many of us in India. And today, support of this community is vital to us” in forging a much stronger relationship with the U.S.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) noted the significance of the Indo-U.S. relationship. Praising the recent messaging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Russian leadership, Khanna said India can play a critical role in a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian conflict. He said Modi, who met Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, had told the Russian leader that “today’s era is not of war.”
His colleague, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the first and only Indian American woman in the U.S. Congress, said India and America, despite being a world apart, have shared a very unique and important relationship over the years. The two countries have made tremendous strides in the promotion of public health,” she said. “With the help of more than $200 million in aid from the U.S., India surpassed an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19 by administering two billion doses of vaccines, the second most of any country in the world.”
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois also addressed the attendees. The Indian American community needs to make its presence known, he said, imploring more Indian Americans to run for office. “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu,” he said.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) recalled his visits to India and said he saw in action “the greatness of the largest democracy in the world in full action. Had it not been for the Indian community that came to West Virginia to provide their services, most of rural West Virginia would not have health care today,” he noted, lauding the contributions of physicians of Indian origin.
Similarly, Sen. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) noted how the Indian American community is playing a key role in enriching the cultural experience of her state. “I live in Charleston, West Virginia, a small rural state. If we did not have any Indian American doctors, we would not have any kind of quality healthcare, we would not have the breadth and the depth and the richness of our communities that we have.”
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), stressed the importance of having strong relations between India and the U.S. “The relationship between the United States and India is mutually beneficial for both of the countries and not just in the field of medicine and technology.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the co-chair of the India Caucus in Congress, shared his fond memories with India, returning to the days when his father served in India during the World War. “India and America – nations which respect individuals, freedom, human dignity, private property, and believe in free markets – have the potential to build on shared values, he said. “India has a major role to play in world peace, stabilizing the world.”
Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), also thanked the Indian American physicians for reaching out when people are in crisis. “You put yourself in an arms way to serve your fellow men, to serve others, especially during Covid.” Describing the U.S.-India partnership as a “strategic relationship” the Congressman said, “We work together to protect freedom and democracies. We work together for the greater good of humanity.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) noted the importance of U.S.-India relations and the role Indian Americans play. “India and the U.S. are strategic partners and Indian Americans are the key assets in the India-US relationship,” he said. “We are not only strategic partners, but we are friends.”
Dr. Kishore Challa, co-chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee; Dr. Anjana Samadder, president-elect of AAPI; and vice president Dr. Satheesh Kathula; and treasurer Dr. Sumul Rawal, also spoke at the Capitol Hill gathering.
The day ended with a reception and dinner hosted by Ambassador Sandhu at the Embassy of India.