BY MAHADEV DESAI
Diwali on October 28, 2008 lit up and further sweetened the growing close relationship between the State of Georgia and the Republic of India as Ambassador Ronen Sen accepted the Resolution 1248 on Indo-Georgia friendship amidst thunderous ovation in the historic Senate Chamber of Georgia. Resolution 1248 which was moved by Senators Judson Hill of the 32nd district and Chip Pearson of the 51st and adopted on March 28, 2008, essentially underscores the endeavors for cultural, economic and educational cooperation and further cementing of the bond of friendship between Georgia and India.
The efforts of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and the Gandhi Foundation of USA paid dividends when their respective petitions transformed their dreams into realities. The architect for the draft of the Resolution 1248, Subash Razdan, President of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia said, “It was a befitting and logical conclusion for the efforts underway over the past three years when two petitions were formally presented to the Indian Minister of Non Resident India affairs, Hon.Vylar Ravi at a luncheon organized by the Gandhi Foundation of USA at the Haveli Restaurant in Atlanta. One petition sought for a direct flight from Atlanta to India and the second petition sought for an India Consulate in Atlanta. Fortunately for the Indian community in Georgia, we had a devoted friend in Ambassador Ronen Sen, who also saw merit to these petitions and worked relentlessly to make this dream a reality.”
India’s U.S.Ambassador, Ronen Sen, who was appreciated in the Resolution 1248 for his efforts to promote peace and growth of cultural, academic, economic, and educational ties between India and the USA, told the gathering celebrating Indo-Georgia friendship in the Senate Chambers, that the Indian Consulate in Atlanta will be a full consulate, not only handling visas and other services but also promoting “cultural, commercial, educational, and scientific links between Georgia and India. Our relationship is burgeoning. We are just starting to realize the potential. Everything points to a very robust relationship. Atlanta was chosen for a consulate in part because of its strong Indian-American community and its strategic location in the U.S. It's a hub, a transportation hub,” Sen said. He added, “Delta Air Line’s new direct flight between Atlanta and Mumbai was also a favorable factor.”
Sen reiterated the depth of the bond between India and USA, as evidenced by the recent Indo-US nuclear deal and the growing trade and commerce between the two countries. Ambassador appreciated the efforts by Senator Judson Hill, Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Gandhi Foundation of USA in passing of the Resolution #1248 which is bound to open up new vistas for bi-lateral trade, cultural opportunities, and educational exchanges between Georgia and India
“Indo-Georgian cooperation has been gradually evolving with frequent exchange visits by dignitaries from Georgia and India. Indian Embassy has been working very closely with their American counterparts to broaden the scope of mutual interaction of multi-nationals such as The Coca Cola Co, Delta, et al. Today, India and the Peach State share a robust economic and educational relationship, a fact made clear during the recent passage of this resolution. Additionally, recently there was a proposal to inter-twine Atlanta and Ahmedabad as Sister Cities,” remarked Razdan, who also serves as the Chairman of the Gandhi Foundation of USA.
Antony Thaliath, Executive Director of GFUSA said, “This is an appropriate resolution between two entities that have two of the greatest apostles of peace, Gandhiji and M.L. King Jr. whose legacies are cherished by the majestic life size Gandhi Statue and the King Center.”
In the Senate Chamber, Razdan thanked Senator Judson Hill for his tireless efforts to pass the Resolution and presented him with the traditional Diwali sweets.
Senator Hill welcomed all and recognized the centuries -old close relationship with India, and then read the contents of the Resolution before presenting it to the Ambassador Sen. Accepting the Resolution, Sen said, “I appreciate this special gesture and feel privileged to accept this on behalf of the Government of India and the Indian American community.
In his thought provoking keynote speech, soft-spoken Sen expressed his warm Diwali greetings, lauding the work done by Razdan and his colleagues in cementing the bond between the peoples of United States and India and also legacies of Gandhi and Dr. King. There is a broad range of cooperation going on between India and the USA, especially in the agricultural sector. He added humorously, “We introduced Indian mango to the U.S.A. Mango is very important, because there is no issue which divides Indians as mango does. Each mango producing place (in India) feels that its mango is the best.” At this point Senator Hill interjected and quipped, “Best mango comes from my backyard in Miami, Florida!”(laughter). Sen smiled and continued,” luckily no issue unites us more than the mango, as we all believe that whichever place it comes from, Indian mango is best in the world.” (laughter)
Razdan had everyone laughing when he joked, “Today history was made in Georgia, and it is probably one for the Guinness book of world record as well, that Indian cuisine was allowed to be served for the first time in the State Capitol. Maybe, instead of Peach State, we could now call Georgia a Chutney State!”
Sen also mentioned about India’s Moon Mission, “As I speak, we are halfway to the moon. So even sky is not the limit for us. We are carrying two US payloads-NASA John Hopkins and NASA Brown. We are carrying modern equipment to map areas not mapped before.”
Senator Hill thanked Ambassador Sen for his riveting speech and for being instrumental in setting up of the Consulate of India in Atlanta and encouraging Delta to venture direct flights into Mumbai.
Razdan then invited members of the GFUSA and AACC, the two organizations who had persevered for the successful passing of the Resolution 1248 to step up near the podium and accept the Resolution from its author Senator Hill.
The event, which was hosted by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, Senator Judson Hill, Asian American Chamber of Commerce, The Gandhi Foundation of USA and members of the Indian American Diaspora and sponsored by Perimeter CID, highlighted the state's deep connection to the international community, especially to India, with the announcement of opening of the Indian Consulate in Atlanta in the very near future.
Earlier, the Ambassador met with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue in the Governor’s Chamber along with Kenneth Stewart, Commissioner Trade & Commerce, Mayor Eva Galamboss of Sandy Springs and Senator Judson Hill.
During the social hour, Ambassador Sen patiently mingled with the prominent community members, business and political leaders while the organizers ensured warm hospitality, by catering snacks and also distributing traditional box of sweets in the spirit festooned with Diwali. “This is the best Diwali gift for Georgia and the community,” exclaimed one enthusiastic participant.