At a time when democracy is under pressure in many corners of the globe, officials are currently tallying votes in the largest exercise of democracy in the world: the elections in India.
The numbers are staggering. In an election that took place over several weeks, nearly 815 million voters were eligible to vote at 930,000 polling locations. Indians cast their ballots for control of the Lok Sabha, Parliament’s lower house and the body that chooses the country’s prime minister.
India’s commitment to democracy is something the United States, as well as other nations, should remember, acknowledge and respect. That respect is returned by the Indian people -- our country’s common values are one reason why a clear majority of Indians, from all generations and educational levels, hold high opinions of the U.S., according to a recent Pew Research Center Survey.
This dynamic of respect and a desire for greater mutual support is especially visible to those of us who have traveled to India to help strengthen ties between our two countries. For all of our differences, we are struck by the many similarities in our political systems: the competing parties, the vigorous debates, the vibrant media and the independent judiciary are signs of democracy in action.
Our ties, however, go far beyond similarities and respect. We have many common underlying interests: we share goals in standing up against terrorism, ensuring stability in South Asia and globally, in growing our economies, and increasing development. Indians have also faced many problems similar to our own – after all, it was only weeks after 9/11 that the Indian Parliament was attacked.
If the United States and India can move our relationship further ahead, it could benefit our own constituents, as well as people throughout the world. Working on a path for India’s ascension to the United Nations Security Council is one important way to take concrete steps forward. Deepening our technological, security, educational and economic ties in a way that creates more high-paying American jobs is another. Beyond these priorities, India and the United States can collaborate on countless individual initiatives, in areas like research, transportation or development.
One thing is certain: moving closer together will do more good for our two countries than moving apart. In many ways, this is already happening organically. With more than 3 million Indian-Americans in the United States, many of whom remain close to families still in India, our people- to-people ties are stronger than ever and expanding by the day. Most Americans interact daily with Indian-American community members, who are visible and active in all aspects of our national life, whether it is business, entertainment, public service, medicine, religion, education and more.
The elections in India are a good reminder about the importance of democracy, our countries’ shared histories, and the potential for future growth. But they are also an opportunity to review, renew and reinvigorate our ties with a natural friend and partner.
Crowley has represented New York City Congressional districts since 1999. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee and is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans. Bera has represented California's 7th Congressional District since 2013. He sits on the Foreign Affairs and the Science, Space and Technology committees. He is the only Indian-American Member of Congress.