By P.K.Balachandran/Ceylon Today
US President Donald Trump’s 36-hour visit to India was a resounding success for him. Apart from getting the grandest reception ever to be given to a foreign dignitary in India, Trump got every other thing he wanted quickly, while giving away nothing.
He sold US$ 3 billion worth of military helicopters and elbowed into the gargantuan Indian energy sector by squeezing out alternatives Iran and Venezuela through sanctions. In return, he yielded nothing. He neither relented on the withdrawal of GSP tariff concessions, nor did he ease the visa regime affecting Indian techies.
Trump charmed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indians by loud theatrics and unabashed flattery, knowing the traditional Indian weakness for both. He heaped praise on Modi at the massive rally in the latter’s pocket borough of Gujarat and endorsed the latter’s claim to be the icon of “aspirational India”.
Trump pointed out that Modi is a man who rose from being a “chai wallah” to being the Prime Minister of India and was therefore an apt model for all Indians.
Trump also gave Modi the benefit of doubt on the latter’s controversial policy on Muslims saying that Modi assured him that he is “working hard with the Muslims”. Trump dismissed as an “internal affair” the controversial new Citizenship Amendment Act, which has been the cause of sit-in agitations across India. He dismissed the Hindu-Muslim rioting in Delhi as an “individual incident.”
Trump had an unstated but clear aim, which was to get the support of the large and well-to-do Indian origin Americans in the coming US Presidential election in terms of both votes and funds.
The number of Indo-Americans is over around 4.4 million now, 20% of whom are Gujaratis from Modi’s home State of Gujarat. Indo-Americans are not only economically well off but have begun participating in politics from the local to the Congressional level.
Trump is aware that the Indian Americans, who have been traditionally with the Democrats, are now turning Right-Wing with the rise of the Right Wing in their homeland India under the leadership of Modi. Being by and large recent immigrants, Indian-Americans are still under the influence of Indian trends. Hence the affiliation with Modi.
“Texas is one State which has a significant number of Indo-Americans and that State had played a significant role in handing Trump the White House by accounting for 38 electoral votes and 7% of the electoral college in 2016,” says Kashish Parpiani says in orfonline.org.
The Texan towns of Dallas and Houston are home to over 270,000 Indian Americans. This is the reason why the Indo-Americans organized “Howdy Modi” event in Houston on September 22, 2019. It was the first-ever public reception accorded to an Indian leader in America.
Indians are transforming themselves from being a quiet and non-controversial community of professionals, academic and traders to being participants in politics. A record 60 Indian-American candidates ran for federal, state and local offices across the US, including 20 for the US Congress. In November 2016, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal and Kamala Harris were elected to the US Congress; Ami Bera was re-elected. This is the highest number ever of elected representatives of Indian origin in the US Congress.
Raj Goyle has co-founded the Indian-American Impact project (IAI), focusing on political leadership training and development for community members running for public office. Gautam Raghavan, a senior advisor in the Obama administration, leads the Indian-American Impact Fund, to endorse and support viable candidates “who reflect Indian-American values”. Many teenagers are engaged with campaigns now.
In a paper on Indo-Americans, Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova (https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/indian-immigrants-united-states) say that as compared with the overall foreign- and native-born populations, immigrants from India on average are significantly better educated, more likely to be employed in management positions, and have higher household incomes.
In fiscal year (FY) 2015, nearly half of Indians who obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States (also known as receiving a green card) did so through employer sponsorship. The remainder qualified as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family-sponsored channels.
Jie and Batalova say that in 2011-15, more than half of immigrants from India resided in five states: California (20 percent), New Jersey (11 percent), Texas (9 percent), New York, and Illinois (7 percent each).
“As of 2011-15, the metropolitan areas with the most Indian immigrants were the greater New York, Chicago, San Jose, and San Francisco areas. These four metro areas were home to one-third of Indians in the United States,” the researchers say.
Though the Indian-Americans came from diverse Indian linguistic backgrounds, they were more likely to be proficient in English than the overall foreign-born population. In 2015, just 26 percent of Indian immigrants (ages 5 and over) reported limited English proficiency, compared to 49 percent of the total foreign-born population, Jie and Batalova say.
The median age for Indian immigrants was 39 years, younger than the overall foreign-born population (44 years). Both Indians and the overall immigrant population were much more likely than the native born to be of working age. In 2015, 82 percent of Indian immigrants were between ages 18 and 64, compared to 60 percent of the US born.
Overall, Indian immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the foreign- and US-born populations. In 2015, 77 percent of Indian adults (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of all immigrants and 31 percent of native-born adults. Notably, among college-educated Indian immigrants, more than half had an advanced degree, Jie and Batalova say.
Many Indians arrived either as international students or H-1B workers, to fill jobs that usually require a university degree, and often stay to pursue permanent residence. Indian citizens were the top recipients of H-1B visas, accounting for 74 percent of the 345,000 petitions in FY 2016.
Nearly 166,000 Indian immigrants were enrolled in US higher education institutions in the 2015-16 school year, comprising 16 percent of the 1 million international students overall. Students from India were the second-largest foreign group after Chinese (328,000), Jie and Batalova say quoting the Institute of International Education.
Approximately 80 percent of Indian immigrant students were enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) majors. Students from India accounted for 14 percent of all temporary visa holders earning doctorates at US colleges and universities in 2015, 85 percent of whom intended to stay in the US after receiving their degrees, as per the Survey of Earned Doctorates quoted by the researchers.
Indian immigrants were roughly twice as likely to be employed in management, business, science, and arts occupations, at 73 percent, compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations, at 31 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
The median household income for Indian immigrants in 2015 was much higher than that of the overall foreign- and native-born populations. Households headed by Indian immigrants had a median income of US$107,000, compared to US$ 51,000 and US$ 56,000 for overall immigrant and native-born households, respectively.
Indians are more likely to have arrived in the United States recently, compared to immigrants overall. Thirty-one percent of Indian immigrants arrived in 2010 or later, versus 16 percent of the total foreign-born population. Another 31 percent arrived between 2000 and 2009, Jie and Batalova say. This means that they are still closely linked to India and the happenings there.
It therefore makes sense for Trump to play on the Indian stage and woo Indians in India to get the votes of, and campaign funds from, Indians in America. He has invited top Indian entrepreneurs like the Birlas, Tatas and Mahindras to invest in the US “in billions” and generate jobs there, saying that he has liberalized the economy, and will liberalize it further, if he returns to power.