Harris-Modi meet a ‘coming-of-age’ moment for Indian diaspora: LA Times

VP would be ‘making history as the highest-ranking Indian American to welcome one of America’s most important allies’

Vice President Kamala Harris’ Thursday meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been described as ‘history making’ and ‘coming-of-age’ moment for Indian diaspora by the Los Angles Times.

She would be “making history as the highest-ranking Indian American to welcome the leader of a country that is becoming one of America’s most important allies,” Harris’ home state newspaper said ahead of the meeting.

“It does represent a ‘coming of age’ moment for the diaspora, which is now more than 4 million strong,” Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was cited as saying in an email to the California daily.

“The meeting between the leaders comes as the Biden administration moves closer to India and other Asian and Pacific nations, continuing the Trump administration’s focus on responding to China’s growing power by building America’s economic and military ties in the region,” the Times noted.

Harris and Modi previously spoke by phone over the summer as India suffered one of the world’s deadliest waves of COVID-19, and Harris met virtually with Modi as part of a Quad meeting in March.

Read: Kamala Harris a source of ‘great pride and inspiration’: Modi (November 18, 2020)

“The Indian government is generally pleased with the Biden administration’s emphasis on Asia but is concerned about the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and how that might affect regional stability and the increased risk of terrorism,” Vaishnav was quoted as saying.

Vaishnav told the Times he expects Modi will also bring up immigration and other issues important to Indians who have moved abroad.

“Harris, whose mother was born in India, attracted donations, votes and attention from Indian Americans during her political rise to the US Senate and the vice presidency,” the daily recalled noting Indian Americans are one of the fastest-growing political forces in the United States.

“Some Indians and Indian Americans would like to see Harris, whose father was born in Jamaica, identify more closely with her mother’s traditions,” it said citing Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at UC Riverside who has been tracking Indian American public opinion since 2008.

“That’s been a running critique for Harris for a while because she does identify as a Black woman and [went] to [Howard], a historically Black university, and many parts of her identity, including the way her mother raised her, were ensconced in the Black experience,” he said.

Ramakrishnan told the Times he believes the meeting will be watched closely by Indian Americans who follow foreign policy, but does not believe it will get the same level of attention in the US or India that was generated by Harris’ selection as Biden’s running mate or her swearing-in.

Both, it noted, produced a swell of pride by Indians and Indian Americans on Twitter and Facebook.

“Harris’ relationship with India is complex,” said the Times noting, “Before she became Biden’s running mate, she criticized India’s human rights record, which includes violence and persecution of religious minorities.”

“Those positions have led some in India to hold the mistaken belief that Harris would push harder than Biden for human rights and democratic reforms,” said Vaishnav, of the Carnegie Endowment.

“Irrespective of her personal views, they are on the same page as far as government policy goes,” Vaishnav was quoted as saying.

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