Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been instrumental in fulfilling the demands and wishes of the Sikh community from the US, an influential Sikh American leader has said.
Jassee Singh, Chairman of the 'Sikhs of America' oraganisation founded to raise awareness about the community, said the official state visit of Modi to the US later this month is a "historic moment" for India.
Prime Minister Modi will embark on his first state visit to the US at the invitation of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden this month. The US president and the First Lady will also host Modi at a state dinner on June 22.
“This is a very, very historic moment for India that the Prime Minister is coming,” said Singh, who has been a part of all the Sikh delegations that the prime minister has met during his visits to the US since 2015.
Singh said the Sikh delegations have always presented a memorandum to Modi and almost all of their wishes were met by the prime minister. This time again, a delegation of the Sikh community is planning to meet the prime minister to thank him for his contribution to the community, he said.
“I think the first time we met with Prime Minister Modi was in 2014. This was the first time after a long time, a Sikh delegation met an Indian Prime Minister. The response that we got was very positive from Prime Minister Modi," Singh told PTI.
"He understood the problems of the Sikhs. He has a genuine heart for the SEC community, which shows when he speaks, talks and meets the Sikh community,” he said.
Prime Minister Modi has been instrumental in fulfilling the demands and wishes of the Sikh community from the US, he said.
Singh said in recent times, no other prime minister has done for the Sikh community what Prime Minister Modi did.
He recalled the steps the Modi government has taken for the Sikh community.
Be it celebrating December 26 as the Veer Baal Diwas, Gurunanak Dev Ji’s 550th birth celebrations, the opening of the SIT for the 1984 riots and putting Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler behind bars, or the repealing of the blacklist of Sikhs living overseas who would not able to go back to India, or repealing the agriculture laws, the prime minister has always been with the Sikhs, he said.
“We are very thankful to him. There is still more to be done. We will always reach out to Prime Minister Modi and his government to look after the needs of the Sikh community,” Singh said.
“He has done a lot. This time, we would like to let him focus on what he's coming for, which is the bilateral talks that are happening. If we get the opportunity, we will thank him for all that he has done. We have other Sikh demands, which we will bring up at a later time,” he added.
Singh said when Modi and President Biden meet at the White House, he would like the two leaders among other things to discuss the immigration issue that is impacting the Indian Americans.
“The main issue that is affecting the Indian community right now is the immigration, the H-1B visas. There are families, there are people on H-1B visas who've been here for 20 years, their permanent residency has been approved, but their files are not moving,” he said.
There are people in India who want to come here to do business and trade, and they have to wait for a year to get an appointment for a visa, he said.
"So, I think, it's mostly on the American side that there's delay and there are issues going on. That should be a big discussion so that the talented Indians who are here on H-1B visas and other visas should be expedited in getting their residency and people in India should be able to get visas a little bit more quickly,” Singh said.
“Everybody wants to meet Prime Minister Modi. They want it to do a big Howdy Modi-like event or like the one that happened in New York... There are so many cultural programmes that are gonna happen before Prime Minister Modi arrives. We are all very excited,” he said.
This time there is a big welcome by President Biden... A lot of people have been invited to that event. They say after Pope, when last time the Pope came to the White House, this is going to be as big, or maybe bigger than that. So, a lot of excitement, Singh said.