Washington: As people across the
United States mourned the death of Edward Kennedy, the Indian
American community remembered him as an "unsung hero" of the
Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and as someone who "personified"
Cutting across party affiliations, Indian Americans
remembered Kennedy, the "Liberal Lion of the Senate", as a
statesman who always worked for improving the Indo-US
relationship, even though most of the time it was quietly
behind the scene.
"For us he is unsung hero of Indo-US civilian nuclear
deal," Ramesh Kapur, a long-time Boston resident and an
eminent community leader said.
Many Indian Americans, however, were upset that Kennedy
did not support the Indo-US civilian nuclear bill in the US
"But he did not oppose either. Had he lobbied against the
civilian nuclear deal as was done by Congressman Edward
Markey, it would have been very tough for us to get the bill
through the Congress, given the support he enjoyed on both
side of the aisle in the Congress," said Kapur, who along with
several other Indian American leaders worked hard for the
passage of the civilian nuclear deal.
When Kapur approached Ted Kennedy to support the Indo-US
nuke deal, he denied to vote for the bill saying the
Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was started by his brother.
"So he said he will not vote for it. But he promised me
that he would vote for it after the Nuclear Suppliers Group
okayed it and came back to the Senate," Kapur said.
Unfortunately, Kennedy fell sick and could not vote the
bill came before the Senate for final approval late last year.
"Even though he did not vote for it, he was one of the
unsung heroes of the nuclear deal. Had he championed against
the deal like it was done by Edward Markey, this deal would
have been dead. We would not have got the Democrat support.
"But he did not, and he did not ask anybody not to vote
against it," said Kapur, recollecting the time when the two
smoked cigars together. Kennedy came to his house couple of
times, he said.
Dinesh Patel, chief arthroscopic surgeon, Massachusetts
General Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School, who
have known the Kennedy family for the past several years said
Ted "personified" Indian Americans, given the cultural and
family values he professed.
"He believed in the family values, like we Indians do. He
personifies Indian Americans," Patel said, adding that a
number of time the Senator personally helped people in getting
visas for their family members and parents.
Patel said Kennedy had very high regard for Indian and
Americans and considered them as highly-educated, passionate
and family oriented like that of Irish and Italian community.
"He was always forthcoming in helping the community every
time we went to him with a problem," he said.
"He was quite helpful in promoting the issues that would
help India and globally," he said, adding the Senator never
caused any impediment in Indo-US relationship.
India also figured in his book `America: Back on Track`,
released in 2006.
On page 70, Kennedy wrote: "President (John F) Kennedy
(his elder brother) was especially concerned about India in
his all too brief time in the White House. He worried that
India, the new democracy, might side with the Soviet
Union, not the democracies of the West."
"He knew that military strength alone would never be
decisive in the battle for the hearts and minds of India`s
people. Our ideals, our way of life, and our prosperity, he
believed, were our greatest allies in this struggle. And he
was right. The same is true of the struggle in Iraq today,"
Ted Kennedy wrote.
A few days after Pokharan II, Kennedy spoke before the
Indian American Forum for Political Education.
Though he was very upset with the nuclear tests by India,
Ted Kennedy said: "We will have bombs, but India is a largest
democracy. We have relationship... We will move on," These
words are still being remembered by those who attended that