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Congressman Bobby Jindal has said he would do whatever he can to strengthen bilateral relations between India and the US


WASHINGTON, January 31 2005

"I will do everything I can to strengthen the relationship," Jindal, Republican from Louisiana, told IANS in an interview. "I have personally asked the president to visit India and I believe he has said he will be going some time this year.

"I think it should become routine for a president to visit India, whether it is a Republican or a Democratic president, just as every president goes to Europe."

The 33-year-old Congressman said the economies of the two democracies were growing increasingly interdependent and they shared the goal to fight terrorism.

Jindal said his policy focus in Congress would be education, healthcare and the environment.

As the sole Indian American in the House of Representatives, the second to make it to those hallowed halls 50 years after California Democrat Dalip Singh Saund, Jindal feels the pressure to prove himself.

"Indian Americans have been very supportive and very excited that I'm here and want me to make a difference as quickly as possible," he said. "They know, I will make a difference, but I am part of a process."

Jindal already seems to have made his mark.

Things were going very well for him so far, Jindal said. He was excited to be there, to be elected a leader for Freshmen Republicans, meeting the defence secretary and the health secretary, being called to the floor twice to run special orders, and introducing his first bill - a hectic schedule by all counts.

Into the third week of his term on Capitol Hill, Jindal dwelt on the emotions that surged in him when he was sworn in on the floor.

"It was an incredibly proud moment for me when I was sworn in. As I have said before, I am proud of my parents and first generation immigrants who came to this country. It was a very special moment for my father and for me.

"It was a great moment for me to bring my daughter to the floor with me. Having both of them there summed up why I went into public service," he said.

"I have a strong interest in education, in health plans for the small business community, and in the Resources Committee to help save Louisiana's coastline. We are losing around 50 km of coastline a year!"

He said he was going to make sure the re-authorisation for the Higher Education Act goes through. Jindal was formerly president of the Louisiana University System.

He has made his interest in healthcare reform known as well as in social security.

Having served as executive director on the president's National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare (Breaux-Thomas Commission) and as President George W. Bush's advisor on health policy as assistant secretary of health and human services, Jindal is especially equipped to deal with health.

Even though he is not on the Health Committee in Congress, the three committees he has been placed in are linked to health issues in one way or the other. And he is making no bones about how he can play a key role in garnering bipartisan support for the president's social security and health agendas.

Jindal has not gone the whole hog in supporting Bush's views on bringing about changes in social security.

"At this time they (administration) say they recognise there is a serious problem with social security and that it must be dealt with. I am not one of those to rush to take positions. I am not at all opposed to giving workers choices, certainly younger workers.

"But at this point the administration has to make sure details are known. Let President Bush give his State of the Union address. I think it's too early for us to take positions for or against," Jindal contended.

He applauded the achievements of Indian Americans in this country and the expanding number of areas they are excelling in and advised immigrants to "follow their dreams".


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