American lawmaker sorry he mistook US officials as Indians

Last Updated 29 July 2014, 08:47 IST

A newly-elected US lawmaker has apologised for his embarrassing faux pas when he mistook two senior Indian-origin Obama administration officials as Indians during a recent congressional hearing.

Republican Congressman Curt Clawson had posed questions about "your country" and "your government" to Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, and the Assistant Commerce Secretary for Global Markets, Arun Kumar, while they were testifying before the Congressional subcommittee on the Indo-US relationship under the new Indian government.

"I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologise. I'm a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball," he said using a basketball analogy, having played the sport as a university student.

During the testimony, Clawson quizzed Biswal and Kumar – both of whom are Indian Americans – as if they were representatives of the Indian government.

"I am familiar with your country. I love your country. I'm hopeful with the new change in regime that the future and the land of promise and the land of opportunity of India can finally become so," Clawson had said.

The lawmaker from Florida shared his bitter experience in India as a businessman.

"Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the US, I'd like our capital to be welcome there and there to be freedom of capital so that both sides are on the same territory. And I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your (Indian) government in so doing. Can I have that?" Clawson asked the two bemused US officials.

"I think your question is to the Indian government. And we certainly share your sentiments. And we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the US government," Biswal replied.

Ironically, Clawson has lived in India, has joint venture factories in Pune, understands Tamil and Telugu, and says Hyderabadi Biryani is his favourite dish!

(Published 29 July 2014, 08:47 IST)

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