United States Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, believes Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “
reinvigorated” the US-India partnership from the malaise that
had set in over the past few years.
The California Republican was to meet with Modi on
arrival and attend his Madison Square Garden appearance,
and also meet with the prime minister later along with the
How significant is Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US
in terms of the envisaged US-India strategic partnership,
particularly in moving the relationship forward?
It is not an overstatement to say that the US-India partnership will define South Asian affairs for the years to
come. For over two decades, our partnership has seen
diplomatic growth, and I was pleased to play a part of that
joining President Clinton’s 2000 trip and helping to lift the
ill-conceived sanctions against India in 2001.
Now we have, with the visit of the prime minister, he has
reinvigorated our partnership. His visit to New York and
Washington will be an important trip in laying the groundwork for furthering both economic ties and counterterrorism cooperation. So, it’s no exaggeration to say that his visit
will lay the framework for a historical deepening of the
relationship between our two great democracies.
In 2005, there was the controversy of Modi being denied
a visa to visit the US because it was deemed that he condoned — and some say was complicit in — the pogrom
against Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
And, here he is today, being welcomed with such
unprecedented enthusiasm with administration officials
saying we are now well past that visa controversy and it’s
the beginning of a new era.
Are you confident it could indeed be a new beginning
despite a lot of the resentment and bitterness still prevailing in some Indian and Indian-American circles over his
humiliation of being banned from coming to the US till he
overwhelmingly won the election in a massive landslide?
That is why I extended an invitation to have him come to
Congress and address Congress, I extended an invitation
during this debate because of the fact that there was a
lengthy (Indian) Supreme Court investigation that concluded two years ago that there was no evidence that he
was culpable for the riots. And, as a consequence, that is
why I publicly urged that he be invited to the United States
and I, as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was
inviting him to the United States. So, that’s my feeling on
that. I feel very strongly on that and I believe so does the
You were the first lawmaker to write to Speaker John
Boehner urging him to invite Prime Minister Modi to
address a joint session of Congress. Of course, the
Democrats, led by Congressmen (Brad) Sherman and (Eni)
Faleomavaega also quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Are
you disappointed that Speaker Boehner couldn’t make the
address happen, which the Indian-American community
was also so much looking forward to?
First, I was pleased to join my colleague George Holding
— and yes, I was the first to write the letter — and I asked
George, who was one of my subordinates in the committee,
to join me in doing so — inviting Prime Minister Mr Modi
to be granted this honor.
Many other followed suit, as you remarked, and raised
their support and the level of Congressional support was
The reason it did not occur is because the Senate is
going to be out of session and so is the House of
Representatives. So, they are not in session and so
instead, I am having a meeting along with the Speaker of
the House and other leaders in Congress with the prime
minister when he is here in our nation’s capital. We are all
coming back to DC for that.
When you meet with the prime minister, what are some
of the burning issues that you would like to bring up?
First, I am going to remind him that I traveled to Gujarat
following the devastating 2001 earthquake and had the
opportunity to meet him, and that, as I’ve said, his reconstruction effort was astonishing.
And, I am also going to explain to him our appreciation
for the reform he made in his home state of Gujarat that
now accounts for 25 percent of all Indian exports, even
though it’s only 5 percent of the country’s population.
I am going to urge him to continue his leadership in
reforms in Delhi so that the whole country of India has
sustained performance and results that Gujarat has had
and I am going to offer our cooperation in the United
States to try to make certain that it is India on the map for
trade and investment for US businesses because the
results there are much better than the results we have seen
in mainland China.
We are seeing astonishing opportunities but should be
selling LNG to India in order to fuel its economic growth,
and I am going to further cooperate with the government
and extend my hand in friendship to say that we’ve been
working hard on this issue, but together I believe we can
get legislation through to make certain that India is the
recipient of the excess LNG.
Here in the United States we are capping wells, we are
layering gas because of our surplus, and that surplus
should be sent to India.
Then, I am going to lastly mention the importance of
counterterrorism cooperation because I have seen first-
hand having stayed — my wife and I have stayed in the Taj
and I went back to the Taj right after it was hit by terror-
ists — and this is an opportunity for us to be reminded
that besides the naval to naval exchanges that we are doing
that is so important in the Indian Ocean, we must also
ramp up, step up, now that Al Qaeda says it is going to
form an affiliate in the subcontinent — in India. So, we
for furthering both economic ties and
Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, speaks to Aziz Haniffa in an exclusive interview on Prime Minister Modi’s visit
US representative Ed Royce, center, and his wife Marie Porter Royce with community activist Sambhu Banik at the Indiaspora ball in January 2013. PARESH GANDHI