Local Community Solidifies its Connection with Friends in Congress During US Rep. Ed Royce’s Day-Long Visit


Congressman Ed Royce speaks with IAPAC President Sujeeth Draksharam  (in dark
suit) and GIBV Coordinator Achalesh Amar as Hasu Patel looks on at the Townhall Meeting at Madras Pavillion on Sunday, July 20; Photos: Karthik Datta

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Last year when Congressman Ed Royce (R, CA-39th) had come through the Bayou City on Mother’s Day, he had rolled up his sleeves, loosened his tie and handled some tough questions on Indo-US relations from a small, tame but inquisitive group of people pulled together by the Indo American Political Action Committee, whose newly-elected President, Sujeeth Draksharam had led the charge to invite Royce to town during a previous trip to Washington, DC.

Royce had arrived with his wife Marie and was accompanied by Congressman Pete Olson (R-TX-22nd), the biggest supporter that the City of Sugar Land has. Royce had won over the audience with his straight forwardness in answering questions and his unabashed support for strong Indo-US ties in his role as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of the Indian Caucus in Congress. He also serves on the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.

Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish (center) held a breakfast meeting with Congressmen Ed Royce (left) and Pete Olson on Sunday morning, July 20.

Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish (center) held a breakfast meeting with Congressmen Ed Royce (left) and Pete Olson on Sunday morning, July 20.

Royce, 62, was first elected in 1982 to the California State Senate before winning his current seat in Congress in 1993. He also serves on several Caucuses in the House, including in 2010 being named Co-Chair along with Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14th) of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, which was founded by former Democratic Congressman from New York, Gary Ackerman. Royce is considered a moderate Republican and a fiscal and social conservative.

This past Sunday, July 20, Royce came through Houston once again on an official trip to visit with the Indian community at a function brought together by IAPAC and supported by the Global Indian for Bharat Vikas, the group which had labored hard to help Narendra Modi win the recent Indian elections at the helm of the Bharati Janata Party; the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin and Indo American Conservatives.

Congressman Pete Olson came to the private fundraiser in the evening in a sherwani, and a scarf with the Indian flag tricolors.

Congressman Pete Olson came to the private fundraiser in the evening in a sherwani, and a scarf with the Indian flag tricolors.

The townhall style meeting was held at 3pm in Madras Pavilion Sugar Land and brought together about 80 people, including Olson, Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, State Senator (Dist. 11) Larry Taylor and State Rep. (Dist. 29) Ed Thompson and a few other elected officials from the region. Sugar Land Councilman Himesh Gandhi served as the emcee for the two-hour long event at which Royce expanded on the current state of relations with India, in light of Modi’s election as Prime Minister and said he would hope to see Modi address a joint session of Congress during his upcoming visit to Washington, DC in September.

One of GIBV’s main local coordinators, Achalesh Amar worked with IAPAC to garner attendence at the event. He presented a brief biography of Modi and urged Royce to push for a special treaty on trade and commerce between India and the US. IAPAC’s Draksharam appreciated the work that Royce and the Council was doing in strengthening ties between the two countries. In his opening remarks, Olson spoke about his close relations with the Indian community in his district which encompasses Sugar Land, Missouri City and Pearland.

During the meeting Royce described his involvement in the past during the Bhuj, Gujarat earthquake relief work and how he had the occasion to interface with then Chief Minister Modi. He applauded the great strides Gujarat has made in development and was confident that, with Modi in charge, it would continue on the national level. He took several questions from the audience on the Ukraine crisis, immigration reform and Pakistan’s support for Kashmiri militants. He related how he had urged for the closure of 600 madrasas and other suspected terrorist camps.

Royce’s day began with a courtesy call with Pete Olson on the Indian Consul General Parvathaneni Harish at his residence on Sunday, July 20 where many community leaders and the media were invited to have breakfast. Both men were involved in pushing through the agreement for gas exports to India, which was signed last year with Cheniere Energy from the terminal being built at Sabine Pass, an achievement that Olson said he was particularly proud of.

Harish said the Indian President had called the recent elections, “an election of hope” and that India had structural ties to the US. He said that nearly 14% of trade between the two countries came from Texas and that India had $8 billion in investments in the state. “The government is committed to ensuring that obstacles to business are removed and there is a stable environment,” he added, “opening up opportunities with the US”.

Royce praised the Indo-American community for their achievements and having the highest percentage of advanced degrees in Texas and California. He spoke about his work in the building the members of the India Caucus from 8 in 1993 to 108, “thanks in part to the work of Pete Olson”. Royce stated that he had been opposed to sanctions against India for nuclear armament and insisted that “the US and India should be natural allies. “Both have right goals, though they may be imperfect republics”, adding “India is a very positive story. Studies show that investment in India has much higher returns” than in China.

Olson thanked the Consul General and echoed most of Royce’s remarks. He disclosed that Royce was going to be in charge of Narendra Modi’s State dinner and speech to Congress when he visits in September. He added a humorous anecdote of his own visit to India as part of the Congressional delegation last December.

On Sunday evening, the two Congressmen attended a private reception and fundraiser at the home of IAPAC President Draksharam, where Olson impressed everyone in an Indian sherwani and an Indian tricolor scarf although his wife, Nancy, had to opt out of wearing a sari at the last minute. Royce then revealed that he had made Olson a Vice-Chair of the Council for Foreign Affairs Committee. The event raised between $15 to $20 thousand for Congressman Royce.