Harsh Vardhan Shringla wins high praise for strengthening India-US ties

Outgoing Indian Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla (second from left) at a farewell reception he hosted at his official residence recently. Also seen are Deputy Chief of Mission Amit Kumar (left) and author Jaggi Vasudev (right). Before he left Washington on January 12, Shringla attended a series of farewell receptions.  Photo by S.S. Manku

Outgoing Indian envoy Shringla feted by lawmakers, officials, businessmen and community.

By Surekha Vijh

Outgoing Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla,  who is set to become India’s new foreign secretary on Jan 29, has won high praise for strengthening India-US relations during his short one year tenure.

Lawmakers, Trump administration officials, business groups and the Indian American community feted Shringla at a series of receptions in the US capital.

Notable among these was the one hosted in the House Foreign Affairs Committee room in Rayburn House Office building on Capitol Hill on Jan 9 anniversary of his arrival in Washington.

House Foreign Affairs committee’s Democratic chairman Eliot Engel allowed the use of the very room where a hearing on Kashmir was held in October, to bid  farewell to an outgoing foreign envoy.

Describing the exception as a landmark event, Engel said India and US had pretty much achieved the most important strategic goals of strengthening their ties.

As chairman of the house panel, he would continue to do his best in further strengthening relations between the two nations, Engel added.

The Capitol Hill reception was hosted by New York-based Ranju Batra, chair for Diwali foundation in the US, and Ravi Batra, chair for National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs.

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Engel, who represents New York’s 16th Congressional district in the House, appreciated the efforts of the dynamic Indian American community in bringing India US closer.

Shringla would have another important role to play in India in bringing the two democracies further closer, he added.

Describing Shringla as “result oriented,” Rep. Brad Sherman noted that Ken Juster, the US Ambassador to India was visiting Jammu and Kashmir  to see the situation there himself.

Other lawmakers who spoke included Indian American Raja Krishnamurthi, Pete King and Jim Vargas.

Thanking members of US Congress for their role in improving India US relations, Shringla said he was particularly grateful to Engel for being so understanding of some of the issues that were part of their relationship.

“We made a lot of progress in initiatives that are important to us,” he said.

Noting that Kashmir hearings were held in that very room, Shringla said conditions in Jammu and Kashmir were normal.

He also thanked the Indian diaspora for their hard work in bringing the two countries closer.

Inviting the gathered guests to visit India, Shringla quipped amid laughter, “With all the direct flights we started, it’s not too much of an effort.”

“We look forward to seeing members of Congress, the administration, the media, businesses, those who are from the Indian community,” he said.

“And of course, all of our other friends who might not belong to these categories, are all welcome.”

India’s Consul General in New York, Sandeep Chakravarthy and several leading members of the diaspora also attended the reception.

Earlier that day, in another rare exception, the State Department hosted a reception for Shringla at the historic Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from the White House.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, said Shringla would be “the captain” of US-India relationship in his new role.

Earlier, Democratic Rep. Joe Wilson hosted a farewell breakfast for Shringla.

Also, on Jan 9, the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-India Business Council, hosted a reception where Shringla called the India-US business relationship as “a strategic partnership.”

USIBC president, Nisha Desai Biswal, described Shringla as an achiever who had accomplished a lot in his short one year tenure.

A day earlier, US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) hosted a reception where Shringla met USISPF president Mukesh Aghi, Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia, Christopher Wilson among others.

There was a great possibility for an exclusive partnership in trade between India and the US, he said.

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