A defiant Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents Silicon Valley, has asserted that he has absolutely no intention of withdrawing his membership in the Congressional Caucus on Pakistan as demanded by a coalition of more than 200 Hindu and Indian-American organizations led by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF).
But Khanna, who is also a member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, challenged his critics arguing that his record as an indefatigable lawmaker promoting closer U.S.-India relations speaks for itself loud and clear.
In an interview with India Abroad, Khanna, 42, said, “My approval rating is 78 percent in my district. I had a standing ovation at my last town hall. I’ve spoken about Hinduism being for pluralism.
“There were more than 300 people at my town hall and I got a standing ovation,” he reiterated, and added, “we’ve increased our fund-raising and we’ve increased our support from the Indian-American community, and so, I’m focused on my job and a lot of this (the criticism against him for his joining the Pakistani Caucus and his tweet against Hindutva) is noise.”
However, Khanna said, “It’s a free country and people can expressed their views.”
HAF, in a statement said that representatives from a coalition of 230 Hindu and Indian organizations had hand-delivered the letter to Khanna bemoaning his “membership in the Congressional Pakistan Caucus” and arguing that it “is contrary to both American principles and our geostrategic interests in the Indian Subcontinent and the broader South Asian region.
“Accordingly, we urge you to withdraw from the Congressional Pakistan Caucus,” it said. The coalition in its letter also urged Khanna to make “a formal statement for the Congressional record, highlighting the ethnic cleans ing of 350,000 Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, who were driven out from their homes by Pakistan-sponsored terror Islamist militant campaign three decades ago.”
It also took him to task for his recent tweet against Hindutva and called on him to issue a clarification on the matter.
Last month, Khanna had tweeted that “it is the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist and Christians.”
At the town hall meeting on Sept. 15 at Morrill Middle School in San Jose, California, that he referred to, he had told the audience that “I am proud of my faith. Hinduism, at its core, stands for pluralism and non-violence. That is what Gandhi and my grandfather, Amarnath Vijayanagar, preached.
“At this moment in our nation, at this moment in our world, we desperately need political leaders to stand for pluralism, for tolerance, for respecting people of all faiths, and for human rights. I will stand for those values in Congress,” Khanna said and received a standing ovation from the audience.
In the interview, Khanna took on his critics and the coalition aligned against him for joining the Pakistani Caucus, Khanna and said, “I think it all stems from a naivete that they don’t understand politics. But it is really irrelevant in my district and that’s where my first priority is.”
He reiterated that “I’ve done way more for India than Pakistan,” and said that besides urging that the U.S. “make India a NATO-like ally,” he had also supported the bill by the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel to provide more military equipment and defense sales to India and co-sponsored the resolution condemning the Pulwama terrorist attacks in Kashmir by the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group based in Pakistan.
Khanna said he had also made clear that the revocation of Article 370 giving special status to Kashmir by the Indian government was “an internal matter,” and called out Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for his bellicose statements and saber-rattling and raising the specter of a nuclear conflict “and by the way, they (the Pakistanis) are taking my comments much more seriously now—they say we can’t be dismissive of this as bias.”
“I am trying to bring peace, I am trying to bring stability and I am trying to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship,” he emphasized, “and to do so in a way considering all of the regional implications.”
Khanna said that in this regard, “It is making me more effective to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship with my colleagues –with Eliot Engel, with Brad Sherman(chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific that also has jurisdiction over affairs pertaining to South Asia) and if you ask them, they’ll say this was a brilliant move,” and added, “All of this has made me a more significant player.”