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US lawmaker asks Obama to support Diwali postal stamp

New York: An influential American lawmaker has written to US President Barack Obama asking him to voice support for a commemorative Diwali postal stamp when visits India later this month, saying such a move will signify that the US honors its religious diversity and inclusiveness and further help strengthen Indo-US cultural ties.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from New York wrote to Obama in a letter dated January 15 that since there currently are stamps commemorating a number of holidays including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Eid, it is now "time for a Diwali stamp" and hoped that the President would consider announcing his support for a Diwali commemorative US postage stamp when he visits India next week.

"As the first President to light a traditional lamp, the 'diya', as part of the White House Diwali celebration and the President who has done so much to promote the Diwali values of compassion and tolerance, I hope you will use the occasion of your visit to India to support a Diwali commemorative stamp," Maloney said in the letter.

She said a Diwali stamp would send a message to the more than one-billion people who mark the Indian festival that the "US shares these values and honors our country?s religious diversity and inclusiveness.

"It would also help deepen the friendship not only between India and the US, but also between the US people and the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists around the world who celebrate this holiday," she said, adding the US and India share strong cultural ties that are in large part driven by the over three million Indian-Americans living in the US.

"Deepening those cultural ties will be an important part of our growing relationship with India," she said, adding that a Diwali stamp would also help strengthen the US Postal Service with additional revenues from the millions of people who would purchase such a stamp to send cards to their family and friends as part of the Indian holiday.

Maloney joined India's Consul General Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Chair of the Diwali Stamp Project Ranju Batra and Chair of the National Advisory Council of South Asian Affairs Ravi Batra at the Indian Consulate here on Friday to encourage the US Postal Service to issue the Diwali postage stamp.

She last week introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to build congressional support for the stamp.
Maloney has headed efforts in Congress to push the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) to consider issuing a commemorative Diwali stamp for several years.

If the stamp were issued, it would be the first time the South Asian holiday receives any recognition by the postal service.

In 2013, Maloney had introduced a similar resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the CSAC should issue a Diwali stamp.