Washington, Mar 9, 2017: Under Trump’s administration, US-India ties are expected to conquer new frontiers, the two countries being “natural partners” with common interests, an Indian-American entrepreneur who is considered to be close to Vice President Mike Pence said.
“With Indian-Americans playing the role of an umbilical cord between the two countries, India and the United States have common interests in balancing the increasing economic and military influence of China in the Asia-Pacific region and fighting together the menace of terrorism in South and Central Asia,” said Indiana-based Gurinder Singh Khalsa told PTI in an interview.
Khalsa, the Chairman and Founder of Sikhs Political Action Committee, the SikhsPAC has emerged as a vocal leader of the Indian-American Sikhs.
“India and the United States are natural partners at this time. Both have an interest in balancing growing Chinese economic and military influence in southeast Asia. Both have an interest in fighting terrorism originating in central Asian areas like Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Khalsa told PTI.
Khalsa said that improving relations with the US would be of long-term benefit to India. The countries also have shared priorities in business, especially in IT and tech industries.China has been assertive in the disputed South China Sea region, building artificial islands which could potentially be used for military purposes. It is also building a number of ports in South Asian countries.
Khalsa has been a friend of Pence from the days when the present US Vice President wasn’t even elected as the Governor of Indiana.
Khalsa wishes to strengthen US-India relations and be the voice of the Indian-Americans and other similar ethnic communities in the US.
“(Pence) has been very outspoken about the need for more economic cooperation between India and Indiana. Prior to his selection as Vice President, he spoke to us about his intention to travel to India after the election. He wanted to be the first Indiana Governor to visit India after the election,” Khalsa said recollecting his meetings with Pence.
Khalsa, who was born in 1973, shifted to the US in 1996. Before moving to the US, he wrote four papers, including topics like India-Pakistan boundary disputes and extensive deforestation leading to environmental degradation in the Himalayas.
He spent five years in the insurance, finance and real estate sectors in California before moving to Indiana in 2008.Since 2003, he has developed a chain of businesses throughout California, Nevada and Indiana.
He first met Pence in 2012 in the gubernatorial camp, when they agreed on a meeting to discuss tax issues which involved some Indian gas station workers.
In 2007, a TSA agent refused to allow Khalsa on an airplane unless he removed his Turban. He argues that it would be a clear violation of Sikh religious practice, refusing to take off his turban and took forward this issue before the Congress and was successful in changing the headwear regulation of TSA.
“Because of this effort, Sikhs are now allowed to wear their turbans through airport security,” he said.
Now that Indian-Americans have proven their great skill as entrepreneurs and businessmen, Khalsa asserts that it is time for the community to step-up and serve in public office and the military.
“I mean, look, we have a rich history as soldiers and administrators in India,” he said.
“At this time, Indians account for about 1 per cent of the US population and the United States is overall more diverse than it has ever been.”
“This is an opportunity for both Indians and Americans. At the end of the day, Indians have done very well in the US in terms of business opportunities. SikhsPAC is a model for ensuring Indians have the resources they need to give back through service to their country. We’re already seeing great examples of this with the US military removing restrictions on soldiers wearing the turban and beard. That is progress on which we need to build,” Khalsa said.
– prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf