NEW DELHI: US Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s historic running mate, has strong views on Kashmir but has refrained from taking a strident position on the issue so far this year.
We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping a track on the situation,” Harris had said in a statement last year when she was seeking the presidential nomination from the Democratic Party.
Her reservations against the current government and the Trump administration may have shaped her decision to skip the Howdy Modi event in Houston last September, experts who follow India-US ties, told ET. “After entering the US Senate, Harris started to emphasise more and more on her Indian origin. But Democrat politicians, who are backed by immigrants, thrive on human rights and pluralism,” a former Indian diplomat, who had served in the US, told ET. Arun Singh, former envoy to the US, told ET: .
Arun Singh, former envoy to the US, told ET: “The decision to nominate Harris reflects growing involvement of Indian Americans in US politics. Today, the number of Indian Americans in politics and administration has increased compared to five years back.”
Interestingly, Harris embraces her Indian roots but proudly lives her African-American identity. Daughter of Shyamala Gopalan Harris from Chennai, she has now become the first American of Indian and Asian descent to run on the presidential ticket in the US. Shyamala, a cancer researcher in Berkley, passed away in 2009. Kamala’s Jamaican-American father Donald Harris, an economist, taught at Stanford University.
The Indian origin Senator possesses a strong sense of justice and integrity, a trait she said she imbibed from her maternal grandfather PV Gopalan.
In several interviews to the US media before becoming Senator, Kamala Harris mentioned that her maternal grandfather also had a tremendous impact on her and he was an inspiration for justice and integrity. Kamala was a visitor to Madras (now Chennai) to meet her grandparents. The grandparents too spent considerable time with their daughter and her children in the US, shaping their worldview.
A fierce advocate for police reform, social justice and immigrant rights, Kamala Harris became the district attorney of San Francisco in 2003. From Kamala’s name (Shyamala gave her and her sister names to connect with their heritage) to her focus on immigration and equal rights, her mother Shyamala has left a lasting legacy for her daughter, persons familiar with Kamala’s background told ET.
Kamala Harris was sworn in as a Senator from California in 2017 — the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American Senator in the history of the US. She has served on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on the Budget.
While Kamala’s maternal aunt Dr Sarala Gopalan lives in Chennai, her mother’s brother G Balachandran, who worked with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, lives in Delhi. She has another aunt based in Canada. According to Balachandran, Kamala has courage to face any kind of challenge as his sister had taught her. She is capable to overcome challenges and make herself heard, he said, adding, “My sister has taught her to be brave.”
The move to name Kamala Harris is expected to give Biden votes from the large Indian diaspora in the US. An estimated 1.3 million Indian-Americans are expected to vote in this year’s Presidential election and Kamala has some stronger backers from influential Indians in the USA, ET has learnt. Biden had wanted to choose a woman of colour as his Vice President. Harris was among the preferred names as this would also inspire African-American community to vote for Democrat nominee and former Vice President Biden
Leading Indian-American groups across the US on Wednesday lauded the selection of Harris as the Vice Presidential candidate.
“What an electric moment for the Indian-American community! Indian-Americans are now truly a mainstream community in the national fabric,” M R Rangaswami, an eminent Indian-American and the founder of Indiaspora, told news agency PTI.
Welcoming the decision, IMPACT, a leading Indian-American advocacy group, said it will raise $10 million for the campaign. “Kamala Harris’s story is the story of a changing, inclusive America. At a time of rapid change, she ties all our national threads together. The daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Kamala Harris represents the future and promise of this country. Her candidacy is historic and inspiring, not only for Black Americans, but for millions of Asian American voters, the fastest growing voting bloc in the country,” said IMPACT executive director Neil Makhija.
Harris has been a fierce critic of moves by the Trump administration to curtail rights of vulnerable immigrants.
“@JoeBiden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals. I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief,” an elated Kamala Harris tweeted after Biden announced his decision.