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July 19, 2000
Clinton urged to remove sanctions
C K Arora in Washington
Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans Co-Chairman Gary L Ackerman has urged the Clinton administration to initiate immediate measures to remove all economic and dual-use technology sanctions against New Delhi before the visit of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the US in September.
"I believe Prime Minister Vajpayee's trip gives us an enormous opportunity to build on the foundations laid by our president when he visited India. The Fall visit affords both nations a chance to redefine [the] US-India relationship," he said in a speech at the Indian American Friendship Council.
He said the president and the visiting prime minister would have an opportunity "to upgrade our two nations' ties toward a 'strategic partnership' in South Asia recognising New Delhi as a pre-eminent force for stability and peace in Asia."
He said friends of India in Congress had scored yet another spectacular victory last week when they forced Republican lawmaker Dan Burton to withdraw his amendment seeking to reduce US development assistance to India.
"The Burton outcome clearly showed that my colleagues in the House in a bipartisan manner fully appreciate that US-India relations have moved to a new plane," he said.
Ranking member of the House International Relations Committee Sam Gejdenson, who also spoke, said there were great opportunities for the two countries to benefit from the growing trade relationship.
"But we must also use this new spirit of partnership and co-operation to redouble our efforts and recommit our two countries to meeting the global challenges of the 21st century," he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Democratic Deputy Whip John Lewis, in a letter to Clinton, defended India's secular credentials, urging the US to extend full support to the country's efforts at improving relationship between its religious and ethnic groups.
Congressman Lewis, who has been active in America's civil rights movement, said, "One of the best ways we can do so is to strengthen ties between the United States and India. I encourage you to continue your efforts in this regard."
He welcomed Vajpayee's visit to the US in September and said the two countries should expand co-operation in a variety of areas, including building peace and security in South Asia, strengthening democratic institutions, reducing impediments to bilateral trade and investment, and preserving stability and growth in the international economy.
Lewis noted that senior members of the government, Members of Parliament and the Indian press had condemned recent crimes against Christians in India.
In addition, he said, Vajpayee had stressed that "India is a land of many faiths, all of which enjoy equal respect not only in the Constitution but in our millennia-old national culture".
He said the prime minister had also admitted that "it is incumbent upon the state governments to take firm and determined action against those who indulge in such violence because prompt response and swift action are essential for maintenance of communal harmony, peace and law and order".
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