Just how bad is the economic pain and job loss in the United States? Bad enough for an Indophile Senator to get New Delhi and Beijing mixed up in his mind.
A key US Senator who has extensively supported India, including the passage of the nuclear deal, stunned his Indian and Indian-American supporters this weekend when he identified India as a US national security threat and clubbed it with North Korea and Iran, while arguing for continuing the F-22 fighter jet programme, which would keep up to 100,000 jobs going in the US.
''It (the F-22 program) is important to our national security because we're not just fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,'' Texas’ Republican Senator John Cornyn said in a TV interview. "We're fighting we have graver threats and greater threats than that: From a rising India, with increased exercise of their military power; Russia; Iran, that's threatening to build a nuclear weapon; with North Korea, shooting intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of hitting American soil.''
Turns out the Senator had a 'slip of the tongue.'
''Senator Cornyn misspoke saying 'India' when he meant to say 'China.' As Founder and Co-chairman of the Senate India Caucus, no Senator has greater respect or admiration for India or values our relationship with them more. Sen. Cornyn regrets the mistake and apologizes for any misunderstanding this may have caused,'' his spokesman Kevin McLaughlin clarified after the remarks were brought to his notice.
Misunderstanding and ire there certainly was for a moment from a very sensitive Indian lobby. One community activist wanted to know what the Senator had been drinking. And coming on a day India launched its first indigenously built nuclear submarine, it certainly raised eyebrows.
Finally, it was the Senator’s Indian supporters who brought what was obviously a flub to his notice.
''Senator Cornyn is a friend of India and Indian American community. He considers India a strong ally of United States. He is the senator who initiated and successfully established friends of India caucus in the senate. He spear headed the support for the civil nuclear and was first to be co-sponsor of the bill,'' Ashok Mago, a Texas realtor, said in an email before getting Cornyn’s office to issue the clarification.
Cornyn was one of 40 Senators who failed to stop the Obama administration’s move to kill the 30-year old F-22 stealth fighter jet program that employed up to 100,000 people directly and indirectly in 46 American states. By a 58-40 vote, the Democrat controlled Senate voted last week to scrap the program that was widely seen as a baby of the military-industrial complex, contractors, and lobbyists.
The US has 187 F-22’s ─ each costing between $ 135 million to $ 300 million depending on how one computes the inputs made principally by a Lockheed Martin and Boeing collaboration. It was increasingly seen as a white elephant and killing the program was widely hailed by many military analysts even as several lawmakers like Cornyn pressed for it to save jobs in their states and districts. India accidentally got nicked in the crossfire that eventually led to its demise.