WASHINGTON, D.C.— Governors of five U.S. states — both Democrat and Republican — are slated to visit India this month and over the next few months, with New Jersey’s Democratic Governor Phil Murphy kicking off the slew of these high-powered visits from Sept.13-22, all aimed at enhancing economic ties and trade between their respective states and India.
Besides Murphy, the governors billed to visit India are Indiana’s Republican Governor Eric Holcomb, who will visit India later this month, and Arkansas
Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is also slated to visit India in late September/early October, tentatively scheduled from Sept.29 to Oct. 6. Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis also planning on visiting India sometime in October with stops in Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi; and Delaware’s Democratic Governor John Carney, billed to visit India later this fall.
While the thrust of these visits, where the respective governors would lead high-powered trade delegations, including leading business houses in their states, is to boost bilateral trade and investment between their states and India, they will also engage in people-to-people interactions too with Holcomb looking forward to cheering on the Indiana Pacers in Mumbai, who will play the NBA’s first-ever games in India.
Polis meanwhile is expected to participate in Global RE-Invest Expo, organized by India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, to be held between Oct.31 and Nov. 2 in Greater Noida.
Murphy has decided to go ahead with his visit despite pressure from his Pakistan and Indian Muslim American constituents not to do so in the aftermath of the Kashmir controversy following the Indian government’s revocation of special status for Kashmir and the deploying of thousands of troops and a communications blockade and amidst allegations of human rights violations against the populace of this only Muslim majority state in the country.
On Aug. 15, NJ.com reported that Murphy, despite being urged by the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR)—the leading Muslim American civil rights group in the U.S.-- to cancel his trip to India after the Indian government sparked controversy by moving to strip Kashmir of its limited autonomy, had made clear that he had no plans to call off his six-day visit, in which he’ll meet with Indian government officials and business leaders.
However, he had stressed to his Pakistani and Indian Muslim American constituents that he would “speak truth to power” while he’s in India.
“We’re gonna go ahead with the trip,” Murphy told reporters during an unrelated event at Middlesex County College in Edison, NJ.com reported. “We’ve crossed that rubicon, at least as I stand here today. This is overwhelmingly about job creation in New Jersey,” he said.
Last month he had said that the tour is designed to “strengthen the cultural, educational, and political bonds” between New Jersey and India.
The New Jersey chapter of CAIR on Aug. 15 had called for Murphy to nix the trip after the Indian government imposed a military curfew in the Kashmir and cut residents off from all communication and the internet.
“The governor has an opportunity to make a statement to the world regarding New Jersey’s stance on the marginalization of a religious minority,” said Jim Sues, CAIR’s New Jersey executive director. “By embarking on this mission, with the full knowledge of the steps recently taken by the Indian government, Governor Murphy would in effect be legitimizing and endorsing these illegal and inhumane actions.”
Murphy said he had met with a group of Pakistani and Indian Muslims on Aug. 14, said, “I said to the folks yesterday — I think we had a very good conversation — You have to trust me that I will speak truth to power, that we will stand on our principles whether we’re in New Jersey or India.”
“I don’t agree with Donald Trump on a list so long that it doesn’t fit on multiple pages, but I still have to find progress forward on the Gateway Tunnel, as an example. And I would take the same mindset on this trip,” Murphy added.
The unprecedented intent of five American governors to visit India in quick succession is a part of a joint strategy by the Modi government and the Trump administration to enhance state-to-state relationship, according to Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who has traveled to more than a dozen states in the U.S. and met with the respective governors and business leaders, and invited them to India to pursue mutually beneficial economic and trade opportunities.
Shringla has had working lunches and also been hosted for dinner by several of these governors, including those who have now decided to India and also participated at business roundtables at many of these states, including in Denver this summer, along with the likes of U.S.-India Business Council president Nisha Desai Biswal and Wipro’s vice president for Government and Public Affairs, North America, Kapil ‘Kap’ Sharma, who is arguably the most influential Indian American lobbyist in D.C., during which Polis announced his decision to visit India.
At the roundtable discussion, Polis said the delegation he would lead, comprising of top corporate executives from Colorado would focus on expanding trade with India through partnerships in areas like renewable energy, clean technology and smart mobility.
Welcoming the announcement, Shringla said that a first of its kind energy dialogue between Gujarat and Colorado to support cooperative energy collaboration had taken place in September 2018, and recalled that the
executive director of the Colorado energy office led the state's delegation to Gujarat and participants from the energy research community from Gujarat and their Colorado-based counterparts deliberated on opportunities to collaborate on areas such as renewable energy integration, energy storage, utility business models and innovations, he said.
Consequently, Shringla pointed out that an agreement between the Colorado energy office and Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute to promote policy exchange on integration of renewable energy and other issues was signed.
"The Governor's participation this year will build upon the progress set forth by the previous RE-invest expo in 2018 where a special session called the US-India Clean Energy Finance Program highlighted the role of finance structures in the proliferation of renewable energy," Shringla noted.
He also pointed out that Indian companies are contributing significantly to the economy of Colorado as they are in several other U.S. states and that for example,
Tata Consultancy Services had expanded its operations in August 2018 by opening a new office in Denver and hiring more than 200 employees locally over the last five years and another Indian company, Adani Group, has shown interest in some energy projects in Colorado.
Denver also has had a sister-city arrangement with Chennai since 1984.