Meera Shankar's reception attracts huge gathering of US Senators

The rare reception for the Indian Ambassador was hosted by the Senate India Caucus, which was formed some five years ago and is the only country-specific caucus in the US Senate.

Coincidently, the reception was hosted at the same time when the Obama Administration was winding up its first US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue today.

With nearly two-dozen Senator from both the Republican and Democratic parties appearing for the reception, old timers at the Capitol said this is reflective of the growing ties between the two countries and the value been given to Indo-US relationship by lawmakers.

Senator Christopher Dodd, who has replaced Hillary Clinton as Co-Chair of Senate India Caucus from the Democratic, said India is a "good luck charm" for the United States Senate.

Noting that there are many challenging issues in the world, Dodd said that with the participation and cooperation of India and the United States "we can make a significant difference together". He said that there are so many vitally important matters where the two countries can play a very important role working together.

Observing that Senate India caucus is the only country caucus, Senator John Cornyn, its Co-Chair from Republican side, said this signifies the relationship and the shared values of the people of India and the United States.
"India is the anchor of stability in Asia. In fact our countries are natural allies and partners, even though we may not always realise it," Cornyn told a packed room of audience comprising of influential Senators and eminent Indian-American, who had come from various parts of the country to be part of the momentous occasion.

Cornyn, who was instrumental in establishing the Senate India Caucus, said today 37th Senator joined the group. Several other Senators have expressed their interest to join the caucus.
"Truly honored" to be at the meeting hosted by the Senate India Caucus, Shankar in her impressive speech said the reception by Senators "in this sanctum sanctorum of democracy" is a tribute to India, to the Indian community in the US and to the warm and stronger ties between the two countries and above all the values that bind the two nations together.

"Our relationship is characterised as ties between the world's two largest democracies. I believe that in that description not merely because our two countries are democracies, but because our relationship draws so much of its strength and character from the support it has among the elected representatives of the people in both countries," the Ambassador said.

The Senate India Caucus, Shankar said, is not merely a forum to advance the partnership; it is to her a very important symbol of the US-India relationship. Old time observers at the Capitol Hill said that it is rarely that nearly two dozen Senators turn up for a particular event or reception at the Congress.
"Today was an opportunity not only for the Co-chairs and their colleagues to welcome ambassador Meera Shankar to Washington and reaffirm their commitment to further strengthen relation between two natural allies but also for Indian American community leaders to meet with the new co-chair of the caucus senator Chris Dodd who took over from senator Clinton, now Secretary of State," said Ashok Mago, chairman of US India Forum.
"Our goal is to have at least two-third of the senate become member of the caucus," said Mago, who had played a key role in the formation of the Senate Indian Caucus.
Among prominent Senators who appeared at the reception was Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader; John Kerry, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Bob Menendez, Chairman Democratic campaign committee; Barbara Boxer, Joe Lieberman, Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka, Roland Burris, Evan Bayh, Carl Levin, Al Franken, Kit Bond, Kirsten Gillbrand, Kay Hagan, John Voinovich, Jeff Merkley, Bob Casey and Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar speaks at a reception of US Senate India Caucus. AP
Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar speaks at a reception of US Senate India Caucus. Co-Chair Senator Christopher Dodd (R), Co-Chair Senator John Cornyn in middle and Sant Chatwal, Chairman of the Indian-Americans for Democrats (L) can be seen in pic, in Capitol Hill on Tuesday. PTI

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