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America will be a force for good again under Biden

By Frank Islam

With the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, America is closing one of the darkest and saddest chapters in its history and opening a new one filled with hope and optimism. The swearing-in of the former Vice President heralds a new dawn not just in the United States but the world as well.

The destructive nature of Trump’s presidency has been well-documented by the US and international media. To name just a few of his transgressions during the four years he has been at the White House:

  • Trump reversed many of the major gains the country had made in race relations;
  • actively discouraged immigration, upon which the country was built, especially from the non-European countries;
  • rolled back more than a hundred environmental regulations;
  • waged a nonstop war against the country’s institutions, including the press; and
  • pulled the United States out of landmark global treaties and organizations, such as Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, and largely abandoned America’s global leadership, allowing countries such as Russia and China to fill that vacuum.

Finally, on his way out of the Oval Office, Trump refused to acknowledge the results of a free and fair election that he lost decisively. Unlike his predecessors, he did not facilitate a peaceful transfer of power, even encouraging his followers to stage an insurrection. In a nutshell, he is leaving office with the country deeply divided.

While Trump was remarkably effective in dismantling American institutions and sowing chaos both at home and abroad, when it comes to tackling issues and solving problems, he has been one of the most incompetent presidents in US history.

A case in point is his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. The United States, which has the largest and most expensive healthcare infrastructure, should have tackled the virus better than most other countries. But the nation today accounts for more than a quarter of the global coronavirus cases and more than a fifth of the worldwide fatalities, even though it has only five per cent of the world population.

Despite receiving early warnings about Covid-19, Trump ignored the pandemic at the beginning and then underplayed it even after it began killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. The President worried that stock markets would tank if he took aggressive measures to tackle the virus.

Fortunately for America, the nation will have a leader who is capable of leading it out of the morass. Throughout the campaign, Biden promised voters to act as a President for the whole country, not just for his base. After his victory, the President-elect has reached out to Trump voters, saying that he will heal the divisions.

After four years of Trump’s relentless war against the government and the institutions – which he dubbed as ‘Deep State’ – it is refreshing to have as President someone who has faith in American institutions, whether it is judiciary, the legislature or the press. Unlike the so-called conservative President, Biden has great respect for traditions as well.

For the past four years, the White House has acted as an ‘accountability-free zone’. Biden has clearly told Americans that his administration would be accountable to them in every which way.

Another refreshing thing about the incoming administration is the manner in which it has gone about filling the top positions of various departments and agencies. Diversity, subject-matter expertise and competence have been the key to the nomination at every level.

The new administration’s first initiatives include an ambitious Coronavirus recovery package and a flurry of executive orders reversing many of Trump’s controversial executive orders. Three such executive orders are reentering the Paris climate agreement and joining the World Health Organization and the repeal of the so-called Muslim ban.

We are also likely to see a number of Coronavirus-related policies, such as a mask mandate, expansion of COVID testing and a stay on evictions and foreclosures of people that have fallen behind in paying rent and mortgage.

The Biden administration will be tackling Covid on a war footing and the President-elect has already surrounded himself with prominent experts and scientists.

Similarly, domestic and foreign policy, and national security teams that Biden has put together are among the most experienced and talented. They are ready for the United States to, once again, assume the global leadership it held for more than a century. The country will rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, rejoin the WHO and a series of other international accords and treaties Trump had exited. It will also rebuild the bridge with its NATO partners. It will once again take an active role internationally, dealing with issues that are important to the future of all the countries of the world.

There is no doubt that a Biden presidency will bring a wave of change to global politics and policies. In fact, the President-elect himself said it succinctly, “America is back – we’re at the head of the table once again.”

In his farewell speech 32 years ago, a Republican President referred to America as “a shining city on a hill,” a metaphor he had used to describe the country throughout his eight-year presidency. Ronald Reagan, who was then engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, always saw America as a force for good.

Ironically, it is that vision of America as a force for good that Trump – who came to power promising to “make America great again” – destroyed in 1,461 days. Biden, a 39-year-old Senator when Reagan entered the White House, is now ready to make America a force for good again and revive the construct of the nation as a “shining city on a hill”.

 

Frank F. Islam is an Indian American entrepreneur, civic and thought leader.

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Latest News USA

17 members of US Congress laud Gandhi’s message

Washington, DC: The 151st Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was celebrated at the Embassy of India here on October 2 with Congressman Gregory Meeks and Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu paying floral tributes at the Mahatma’s statue.

Separately, Rep Meeks said Mahatma Gandhi “made a difference not only in India but around the world. It was his leadership, his thoughts, his actions that inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
In the afternoon, a virtual event was organized to mark the conclusion of the 2-year long Gandhi@150 celebrations in which 17 Congresspersons delivered messages on the importance of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. In his video message, Congressman Tom Souzzi said Gandhi changed the “course of human history”.

Amb. Sandhu addressed the event and said: “The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial that stands tall in front of the Embassy today is a testimony to the ideals that India and the United States share, the values that we cherish.” Srimati Karuna, Director of the Gandhi Centre in DC, also gave a message.

On October 1, a virtual Gandhi Katha session (narration of stories of Mahatma Gandhi) with Dr. Shobhana Radhakrishna drew an audience of 9,000.

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Articles Latest News

Overcoming challenges, building partnerships: The promise of a New India

By Taranjit Singh Sandhu,

Ambassador of India to the United States

August is a special month for India. On August 15th, we celebrate Independence Day, this year marking 73 years since our freedom from colonial rule. As we are confronted with a pandemic of unprecedented scale, our celebrations this year will suitably respect the necessary health protocols—social distancing and limited gatherings—both in India and abroad. Much like July 4th in the United States, August 15th for us is a moment of celebration, reflection and introspection.

The last few months have been a challenging period for India, with our 1.3 billion people, bustling cities and far-flung villages. Yet so far, in combating the pandemic, we have held the line. And we have used the crisis as an opportunity for change. The absolute number of COVID-19 cases in India is over 1.8 million, but the recovery rate is also significant: over 65 percent. The case fatality rate (CFR) has dropped to 2.13 percent, well below the global CFR. Even as we continue to save lives and deal with economic consequences, we are encouraged by the fact that two out of every three Indians infected with the novel coronavirus have already recovered, and many more are well on their way back to health.

There could be many reasons for this—biological, immunological and social. Even so, it is obvious that the early and decisive steps in the initial stages of the pandemic, along with the persuasive appeals and urgings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, led our citizens to embrace discipline of lockdowns, social distancing, self-isolating and following relevant medical and health protocols. We have continuously raised the bar on testing, and today more than half a million tests are being carried out each day in India. The world’s largest health insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat, covers 500 million citizens, and with the aid of over one million health workers—mostly women—spread across the country, it has followed a rigorous program of containment and contact tracing. India’s federal polity has empowered state governments to take the lead in these strategies, providing the flexibility for a phased opening up of the country, whether in Kerala or Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh or Assam. At its core, India’s countrywide COVID-19 response has seen a whole-of-society approach, followed the science, and invoked both common sense and the common good.

Even as we have sought to protect the health of our citizens, we have endeavored to ensure that it did not come at the cost of their economic well-being. The government has moved quickly to ensure food security, with $20 billion worth of food grains provided to 800 million individuals and $7 billion transferred to families. In Jammu and Kashmir, one year after full integration with the rest of India, a special relief package of $50 million was announced for those adversely affected. Another 293,000 households have received drinking water connections. And 17 dedicated hospitals with 85,000 beds are operational, with a testing rate of 44,744 per million.

Our efforts in Jammu and Kashmir in tackling COVID-19 have been part of a clear vision of promoting development and better governance—aligning it with the social equalities and personal freedoms that are the right of all Indians, and ensuring the economic and social progress of every resident. No longer does Jammu and Kashmir remain sequestered from the many constitutional rights, democratic privileges and empowering legislations—including gender and child-friendly laws—that had progressively been rolled out, over decades, in the rest of India.

Just as we have sought to ensure that no part of the country is neglected, we have put in place policies for long-term economic transformation: strategies for a world that awaits us at the end of this pandemic. The COVID-19 experience has served as motivation to redouble our efforts to use innovation, digital technologies and manufacturing potential to contribute to mutually fruitful partnerships.

Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, we have unveiled a set of transformative reforms targeting the five pillars of an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India): economy, infrastructure, technology-driven systems, a vibrant demography and demand. These reforms will unleash the country’s full economic potential, enable India to play an important role in global economic revival and make India a trusted participant in global supply chains. They will open up our markets in key sectors, from defense production to agriculture, mining to infrastructure, accelerating foreign investment and igniting the entrepreneurial spirit of our people. They will also go hand-in-hand with an immediate stimulus of $270 billion, close to 10 percent of India’s GDP, with a specific focus on heavily impacted small and medium enterprises.

The green shoots of an economic rejuvenation must be nurtured with the support of friends and partners. The strength of India’s strategic partnership with the United States will be central to the times ahead. Through the pandemic, we have worked together to maintain the integrity of our product supplies, under stress from shortages or dependency on single country sources. As a responsible pharmaceutical manufacturer and stakeholder, we have kept open medical supply chains and made sure that essential medicines from India reached the U.S. and other partner countries.

As the world moves towards a vaccine, India’s research labs and vaccine manufacturing facilities are part of the global efforts—at least three of them are direct products of India-U.S. collaboration. And when the vaccine will be ready for distribution, Indian companies with expertise and capabilities in manufacturing and vaccine delivery will step up to the plate and play an important role in public health outreach across the world, including in Africa and Latin America.

The India-U.S. collaboration in health is only one example of the range and depth of the partnership. Already, we are witnessing renewed interest in India from U.S. digital and innovation giants—in the last three months, more than $40 billion has been pledged as investments that will spur economic growth and create jobs in both countries, leveraging our complementarities for mutual benefit. Those are not stand-alone events: from biotechnology to artificial intelligence, defense to renewable energy, fighting against terrorism to cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, there is no area of human endeavor that has not benefited from our binational cooperation. High-skilled professionals and students from India bring in important skill sets and bridge technological gaps, enabling U.S. companies to be globally competitive while generating more jobs. This innovative lot will play an even more significant role in post-COVID economic recovery in the U.S.

But even beyond businesses and joint ventures, India and the U.S. are bound together at the people’s level—our partnership founded on the fundamental belief in the power of our democracies and our shared values. Through the visionary foresight of the political leaderships in both our countries, we have built a truly extraordinary cooperation. And both our governments are committed to build on these excellent foundations and advance this partnership that not only benefits our two peoples, but also contributes to the global economic recovery and responds to the challenges of our times.

As India approaches the 75th year of our democracy, we remember the genius of our founding fathers—many of whom were inspired by the ideals of the American Constitution. That moment was not an end, but rather the beginning, of a relentless process of nation-building, of the expansion of individual liberty and of India’s economic, social and political empowerment. In renewing that commitment, India’s natural partnership with the United States will be a source of strength.

thesatime | The Southasian times

Taranjit Singh Sandhu is ambassador of India to the United States. Article published  with permission from the Indian Embassy. 

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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Latest News New York

Rich tributes paid to Ramesh Patel, the tallest community leader

By SATimes Team

New York:  The founder and Chairman of FIA (NY-NJ-CT) whose legacy of making India Day Parade in NYC the largest celebration of India’s independence outside the India will live on, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on June 6 from Covid-19 complications. 

Arguably the tallest leader of the Indian community leader in the USA for five decades, he  served the Indian diaspora selflessly and wholeheartedly through FIA (Federation of Indian Associations), National Federation of Indian Associations (NFIA) and other regional/cultural organizations by serving at top positions.

Fondly known as ‘Kaka’ within the community, he also successfully led many a battle on behalf of the community and India, for example:

  • Retaining Family reunification bill in 1984
  • Successful fight against Dot-Busters in 1988
  • Successful and huge rally in Washington DC to stop Pakistan from getting advanced military equipment from the US.

India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu expressed condolences on the death of Patel: “Very sad to learn about the passing away of Ramesh Patel, Chairperson of FIA, after 2 month long fight against COVID-19. A highly respected Indian American Community leader, we will miss him very much. RIP!”

India’s Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty called Patel’s death a big loss to the Indian American community: “A pioneer who brought together the Community & worked on many issues. I particularly value his strong support to the Consulate.”

HH Mahant Swami Maharaj, spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, has offered prayers after learning of the passing of Indian community leader Ramesh Patel.

Patel’s passing “leaves a void too big to be filled,” FIA president Anil Bansal said. He described Patel as a kind, supportive and strong person who guided the FIA for the past 50 years with his dynamic leadership and vision.

Kamlesh Mehta, Chairman of The South Asian Times said, “The demise of Shri Rameshbhai Patel is a huge loss to the Indian American diaspora, he solely kept India shining for almost 50 years in the East Coast USA.” He pointed out that  to honor the dedication and visionary leadership of Ramesh Patel and contributions of the organization he built, “we featured  FIA as “The South Asian Times-Organization of the Year 2015”.  

Ramesh Patel worked in the forensic investigation division of the New York Police Department before retirement and was honored with the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2013.

Patel, 78, is survived by his wife Sucheta, son Suvas and daughters Manisha and Kunjal.

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