The activism of India Caucus included promoting pro-India legislation and defeating anti-India resolutions and amendments. This was most evident with the Burton Amendments, introduced by Dan Burton, who used to be a very vigorous critic of India.
Burton’s almost annual ritual of introducing his amendment came during debate on the Foreign Aid Bill. The amendment would call for reducing aid to India because what he called its poor human rights record. In 1992, Burton had in fact succeeded in making the House adopt his amendment. But the House-Senate Conference Committee dropped the provision, which would have cut aid worth USD 24 million.
But that was a very minimal setback to Burton, compared to how the Caucus voted out his amendments whenever he introduced them in the subsequent years. In 1996, his amendment was voted out by a heavy 169 votes and in 1997, by 260 votes. After drafting amendments for three more years without even introducing them, Burton had conceded that Indian lobby in the Congress would ‘beat me to the ground.’
It may be noted that almost all sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests were subsequently lifted, notwithstanding the fact that the action also had to do with the larger foreign policy calculations of the United States. Soon after the Glenn Amendment, which imposed extensive economic sanctions on India and Pakistan after the nuclear tests, legislators began to raise questions about the necessity and wisdom of such punitive actions.
Beginning in October 1998, Senator Brownback introduced amendments which authorised President Clinton to waive many of the sanctions mandated by the Glenn Amendment. Congress soon allowed the White House waiving authority on almost all post-nuclear tests on India.
Afterwards also, the pro-India legislators kept an eye open for any legislation or amendment that was detrimental to the interests of India.
In July 22, 1999, for example, the House defeated a disguised anti-Indian amendment moved by Republican Congressman William P Goodling seeking to bar US military aid to any country that does not vote with Washington for at least 25 per cent of the time at the United Nations. Though the amendment, which was defeated by 256-169 votes, was couched in general terms, the India Caucus urged every Congressman and state legislation to vote against it because they saw in it a symbolism that was detrimental to India.
The Caucus also actively lobbied to push through the Faleomavaega amendment, which asked the President of US to certify that Pakistan stopped fomenting cross-border terrorism in India and halted proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, before it received US arms aid.
The House also adopted a number of resolutions, which are more of symbolic nature than practical. They include concurrent resolutions praising India’s democracy — often coinciding with Indian Independence Day or Republic Day, or after general elections.
During natural calamities such as Gujarat earthquake of 2001, the House passed similar resolutions.
Though not of much practical value, such resolutions increased the ‘visibility’ of India in the US Legislature.