India needs the nuclear deal: Upendra Chivukula

By Papri Sri Raman, IANS

Chennai : If the India-US civil nuclear pact does not go through, there will be a problem, believes Upendra Chivukula, the Indian origin deputy speaker of the New Jersey assembly.

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“India is the world’s largest democracy and the US tries to promote democracy. It is for this reason that the US made an NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) exception for India,” says Chivukula, a Democrat, who was on a month-long India visit.

“Now, if the nuclear deal does not go through, there will be a problem. India desperately needs infrastructure, its infrastructure need is so large…and power is infrastructure.”

“This deal will help India develop the infrastructure needed to attract more (foreign) companies to India,” Chivukula told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of a function to honour him.

The India-US nuclear pact is in troubled waters due to opposition from Left parties, which give crucial outside support to the central government.

“India-US relations are going from strength to strength” and it can “only go up, given the geopolitical situation both the countries are in,” says Chivukula, who grew up in Chennai, but this time spent his first Deepavali in India in 30 years.

“Bill Clinton is loved by Indians,” he says and is confident that the former president’s wife Senator Hillary Clinton will win the presidential race in the US next year.

“There is large Indian community support for Hillary,” says Chivukula, who was part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Nellore-born Chivukula, 57, went to school in Chennai and graduated as an engineer from Guindy Engineering College (now part of Anna University), specialising in electrical engineering.

Like thousands of Indian students, Chivukula went to the US to do a master’s programme from the City College of New York and is today one of the most influential politicians of Indian origin in the US.

Chivukula says, “In the mid 1980s, the Indian community was growing in numbers but not many Indians there were interested in politics. I thought it was time to get them involved in the grassroots processes in the US.”

In 1985, he set up the Indian American Forum for Political Education and associated platforms like the Minorities Business Opportunity Forum and Business Opportunity Forum for Women.

Chivukula was the first Asian elected to the New Jersey assembly (2002) and represents the 17th legislative district. He became the assembly deputy speaker earlier in 2007. He also serves in the house on the telecommunications and utilities committee (as chair) and the commerce and economic development committee too.

In August this year, Chivukula led a team of 60 New Jersey-based technology companies – the Small and Medium Enterprises Consortium or SMEC – to India to explore possibilities of setting up an integrated technology park in Hyderabad. As many as 300 American SMEs have reportedly shown interest in being part of the project.

Chivukula believes observing the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas – to be held next month in New Delhi – is “a good move” on India’s part as it gives recognition to its non-resident sons and daughters.

“India and China are really in the news and a lot of initiatives are taking place also at the state level,” he says, appreciative of India emerging as the global powerhouse with a little push from its non-resident champions.