Just months after India elected Narendra Modi prime minister, the head of the South Asian nation is fielding invitations across the ocean, from the White House to the diaspora in Queens.
Ashook Ramsaran, a Fresh Meadows resident and president of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin International, said the group has been busy planning for Modi’s visit, currently scheduled for Sept. 27-29.
“We are very excited,” said Ramsaran, a Fresh Meadows resident and Guyanese immigrant. “The general feeling is this is a place of opportunity and people of Indian origin have excelled and contributed to the society .... We want to plan for strengthening the relations between the U.S. and India.”
GOPIO has blocked out a 24-page section of the India Abroad newspaper to trumpet the prime minister’s arrival and alert the diaspora, according to Ramsaran.
GOPIO, which formed in 1989 to fight human rights violations against the Indian diaspora and now assists the community financially, professionally and otherwise, has planned a reception for Modi at Madison Square Garden, where the 4 million Indian Americans can turn out en masse.
Ramsaran said GOPIO has proposed the city host a formal ceremony at Gracie Mansion or City Hall and is requesting the prime minister meet with state elected officials.
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), whose district boasts one of the largest Indian populations in the state, said he watched Modi’s victory as votes were broadcast in Times Square and joined his constituents in welcoming a new leader.
“People are anticipating change, positive change,” Weprin said, alluding to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which ousted the Indian National Congress that had ruled the country for years. “We’re hoping to build on that.”
The assemblyman stressed that the visit was tentative, given the shifting nature of international diplomacy, but noted that the prime minister intended to stop in New York and New Jersey while heading to Washington, D.C., this fall.
When Modi arrives in the metro area, GOPIO plans to have a delegation of its members meet with the prime minister and discuss a bevy of goals and concerns.
GOPIO notes show that the delegation will propose the creation of an American-Indian diaspora think tank focused on improving the countries’ relationship, a lobby group to push for a stronger alliance between the two and the prospect of sending a delegation of American officials to India.
Ramsaran said New York leaders involved with Caribbean Community, an alliance of Caribbean nations that evolved out of a 1970s trade agreement, also want to meet with the prime minister.
Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and neighboring countries have become home to many of Indian descent after people from the subcontinent began migrating to the Caribbean while the regions were under British rule.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@c
©2014 Community News Group
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