A group of people watch Indian Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort in New Delhi
Ro Khanna, Ambassador Eric Garcetti and the US delegation watch Indian Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort in New Delhi (image: Twitter)

Ro Khanna leads U.S. delegation to India

In a historic first, California Congressman Ro Khanna led a bi-partisan American Congressional delegation to India to attend the August 15th Independence Day celebrations in New Delhi. PM Modi acknowledged their presence on the ramparts of the Red Fort, in a tweet, “I am happy that elected members of US Congress are present here today on the occasion of our celebration.”

The U.S. delegation along with Ambassador Eric Garcetti and Florida Congressman Michael Waltz, witnessed the unfurling of the Tricolour flag at the Red Fort in New Delhi.

“On behalf of the U.S. Mission in India, I wish you all a very happy and joyous #IndependenceDay2023! Attending my first Indian #IndendenceDay celebration at the iconic Red Fort—an absolute honor,” tweeted Ambassador Garcetti.

Two men smile at the camera
American Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti and Congressman Ro Khanna in New Delhi (image credit: Twitter)

Strengthening US-India ties

Khanna, a Democrat, and Waltz, a Republican, are co-chairs of the powerful Congressional India Caucus. With India on track to become the third-largest economy by 2030, the United States is investing in efforts to cement its relationship with the world’s largest democracy.

On the agenda with PM Modi’s government are discussions on strategic partnerships between the two countries on a range of issues including defense, China, as well as Major League Cricket. Khanna also paid a visit to the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Delhi, where they took a boat ride and participated in the ritual abhishek.

Accompanying Khanna and Waltz are six other American legislators — Deborah Ross, Kat Cammack, Shri Thanedar, Jasmine Crockett, Rich McCormick, and Ed Case.

In a statement, the co-chairs said, “Both of us believe that the US-India relationship will be a defining one of the 21st Century. India is a key partner in ensuring multipolarity in Asia and the denial of China as a hegemon. We must continue to strive to make progress and build our partnership based on our shared founding values of democracy, freedom of the press and assembly, and human rights. This delegation is a historic opportunity to drive further collaboration and advance shared aims,” the two co-chairs said in a statement.

Ro Khanna meets Amitabh Bachchan

During the visit the delegation will meet with corporate leaders and visit industrial complexes like Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited, to gain insights into India’s manufacturing and digital infrastructure for future collaborations.

Ro Khanna also took time out to meet Bollywood superstars such as Anupam Kher and Amitabh Bachchan, who gave Khanna a book by his father.

“It was an absolute honor to meet with @SrBachchan Bachan,” tweeted Khanna.”He was proud of India’s journey since independence linked with his own life & of the Indian American community. He presented me with a book by his father who knew my grandfather.”

Two men and a woman stand together and smile at the camera
Ro Khanna poses with Amitabh Bachan on his recent visit to India (image courtesy: Twitter)

A Freedom Fighter for a grandfather

For Khanna, the grandson of a freedom fighter, it was a particularly poignant moment. His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was one of the leaders fighting for Indian independence from the British. Vidyalankar, who was jailed along with Gandhi for his role in the Quit India movement and later became a parliamentarian, inspired Khanna in his political aspirations.

“Definitely my inspiration for politics for wanting to fight for a more just world,” said Khanna crediting his grandfather for influencing his role in public service.

A small boy and an older man sit together smiling at the camera
Ro Khanna as a small boy with his grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, a freedom fighter who spent several years in jail with Gandhi. (image credit: Twitter)

Though he was only nine when his grandfather passed away, Khanna remembers summers cooking with his grandfather and listening to stories from the Mahabharata.

“I think it really hit me now that I’m leading this delegation, going on Indian Independence Day to celebrate a moment that my grandfather sacrificed so much of his life for.”

Meera Kymal is the Managing Editor at India Currents and Founder/Producer at desicollective.media. She produces multi-platform content on the South Asian diaspora through the lens of social justice,...