BY NAMITA DOGRA SUDAN
Photos by Senator Jon Ossoff’s office and Namita Dogra Sudan.
Atlanta, GA, June 27, 2023: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent state visit to the United States from June 21st to 24th marked a historic moment for Indian Americans and Georgians. During his White House address on June 22nd, PM Modi expressed that it was the first time the gates of the White House were opened for Indian Americans, an occasion cherished by nearly 7,000 members of the Diaspora from across the country.
Little did he know that his visit also opened the doors of the US Capitol for the people of Georgia for the first time.
As part of the state visit, a reception was hosted by Senator John Ossoff in the US Capitol’s LBJ Room (S-211) on June 21st evening to welcome Georgians who were visiting Washington in honor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. The room, rich in history, emanated a sense of significance, reminding attendees of the important events that had taken place there in the past. The atmosphere was filled with excitement as familiar faces and prominent Georgians gathered, eagerly anticipating the following day’s joint appearance of PM Modi and President Biden on the South Lawns.
The room buzzed with enthusiasm as Georgia Senator John Ossoff entered, shaking hands and engaging in personal conversations before stepping up to the podium. He began his speech with a heartfelt welcome, “It is such a pleasure to host you here in the historic LBJ room here in the United States Senate and even more of a pleasure and the privilege to represent you in the Senate. We of course this week are welcoming Prime Minister Modi to Washington for a state visit” he said. Senator Ossoff acknowledged the significance of Prime Minister Modi’s state visit and the sense of pride and happiness it brought, particularly to the many attendees who were born in India and now call the United States their home.
Senator Ossoff further highlighted his previous visit to India, where he led a successful economic delegation. He emphasized that his office makes every effort to ensure that Indian Americans in Georgia have a seat at the table, a voice in the Senate, and direct access to him and his team. He specifically praised Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni for her efforts in fostering the involvement of Indian Americans in Georgia with the US government.
Concluding his speech, Senator Ossoff extended his gratitude to everyone present and ensured that they had his personal contact information for any assistance his office could provide. He then clicked pictures with each and everyone present in the room to commemorate their visit to Washington DC.
In an exclusive interview with NRI Pulse on US-India relations, he said, “US-India relations are crucial, that’s why I led a successful delegation to India last year and continue to engage to strengthen relations between India and US.”
When asked about the importance of Indian Americans for the US economy, he acknowledged “I think for too long Indian-Americans have been neglected and ignored by American political leaders. I am working to change that. My goal is to be the most present, visible and responsive representative of Georgia’s Indian-American community.”
In line with his goal of actively engaging with the Indian American community, Senator Ossoff selected Mr. SK Raj, Chairman of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC), as his guest of honor for Prime Minister Modi’s historic joint session address to the US Congress on June 22nd.
NRI Pulse had the privilege of covering Senator Ossoff and SK Raj’s interaction before the joint session in Senator Ossoff’s Washington office. During the conversation, SK Raj shared the reason why he was chosen as the guest of honor. “I am the Chairman of Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC). The mission of GIACC is to promote trade and commerce between Georgia and India. Last Oct (10/06/22), Senator Ossoff headlined GATE (GIACC Atlanta Trade Event) 2022. As a result of this event, 47 Chief Executives of manufacturing companies are coming in October 2023 from CODISSIA, based in Coimbatore, India, to explore setting up a US operation in GA. I believe Senator Ossoff was appreciating the good work we are doing at GIACC by making me, the Chairman of GIACC, his Guest of Honor at the historic state visit of PM Modi.” he said.
Following the meeting, SK Raj was escorted to the joint session, where mobile phones were not allowed and only guests with the special invitation were allowed from a certain point. After attending the session, he shared his awe-inspiring experience with NRI Pulse.
“It was surreal to be in the 230-year-old US Capitol that continues to be a witness to key historic decisions that impact almost every living thing on the planet. It was also special for those of us in the galleries, born in India but call USA home, to see the leader of our birth country be accorded the highest privilege of addressing the joint session of US Congress.” said Raj.
“Mr. Raj is a great leader from Georgia’s Indian American community and it was an honor to host him at Prime Minister Modi’s state address to the Congress,” Senator Ossoff later told NRI Pulse.
The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States will be remembered as a proud and memorable moment for all Indian Americans and Georgians who were part of this historic occasion. The memories of this visit will remain cherished in their hearts until the opportunity arises again to witness such significant events.