Roskam in India Abroad: Modi "A transformational figure for India"
‘A transformational figure for India’
By Aziz Haniffa
October 17, 2014
United States Congressman Peter Roskam, the GOP co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, is convinced that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to be “a transformational figure for India.”
The Illinois Republican represents the Sixth District of Illinois in suburban Chicago, which has a significant Indian-American constituency, and was part of the Congressional leadership that got up close and personal with Modi at the tea House Speaker John Boehner hosted.
He told India Abroad, “He has a clear vision and an accomplished background and he knows the challenges, he sees the opportunities and he was very clear about that.”
In fact, he said, Modi’s clarity of vision and his determination to transform India and help it realize its potential economically was his most significant take-away from the meeting: “He is a leader who people are going to be talking about for a long time.”
Roskam spoke highly of Modi’s commitment to a strong relationship with the US and believed he would resurrect the US-India strategic partnership from the malaise some believed it was in for the past few years.
Modi, he said, had certainly struck a rapport with the Congressional leadership and described the conversations as “excellent.”
“It was bipartisan, and people recognize on Capitol Hill how strategically vital India is, and there has been a great deal of progress in the US-India relationship over the past several decades with the civil nuclear agreement for example,” he said.
“If you look at all the opportunities in terms of economic growth, there is a great deal of potential and the good news is that it is clearly recognized on Capitol Hill.”
Asked if he had discussed some of the burning concerns in US-India relations, from trade and investment issues to human rights and violence against women and minorities, Roskam said, “The purpose of the meeting was not to revisit old grievances or other concerns, but it was to make a connection and to make sure that there is a good discussion and dialogue.”
But he acknowledged that Modi hadn’t ducked any questions or been on the defensive: “Look, every country has its challenges and Prime Minister Modi recognizes the challenges in India, but he also recognizes the opportunity and so I sensed no defensiveness and I believe that’s part of what will make him an outstanding leader.”
At their meeting, Roskam presented a painting, Luminary Dome, done by his wife Elizabeth to Modi. “She’s an oil painter and when she learned that I was going to be meeting with the prime minister, she began to think about it and we made it part of the formal exchange through the protocol office to be able to present it to him,” he said.
“So, it was her gesture and then I carried it and presented it. I represent a large Indian Diaspora in suburban Chicago, so it was a way to honor my constituents and also a way to honor the prime minister.”
“She tried to capture the flair of India in the colors she chose to highlight in the Dome and it’s against a very bright, vibrant sky. The symbolism of that is the optimism of the US-India relationship.”
Roskam also carried a map of India to the meeting. “I intended to ask him if he would be willing to sign the map. He pointed out Gujarat and he pointed out his hometown and he signed the map right there for me. I am having it framed now and will place it in my office.”
When questioned about what the India Caucus’ agenda would be now, Roskam said, “The Caucus will take the lead in terms of creating a forum on Capitol Hill for India to have an easy place to interact.”