Vocal On Kashmir, Indian Origin Kamla Harris Is Democrats’ VP Nominee

SRINAGAR: Post abrogation of Kashmir’s special status in August 2019, a powerful voice from Washington had a message of support for Kashmir. “We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world”. The statement came in October 2019 from an American politician having Indian origins.

The Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden with his VP nominee Kamla Devi Harris, an American with Indian origins from mother’s side. Her father was a Jamaican.

Ten months later, the Indian-origin California senator, Kamla Devi Harris, scripted history when she became the first Black woman to be nominated as running mate by Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden for the November US presidential elections. She has also become the first African-American woman and the first person of Indian origin to be nominated to a national office by a major US political party.

According to the research firm CRW Strategy, around 1.3 million Indian-Americans are expected to vote in this year’s election, with nearly 200,000 in battleground states like Pennsylvania and 125,000 in Michigan.

Concerned over the Kashmir crisis, Kamla, an Indian descent from her mother’s side in a supportive statement had said, “we are keeping a track on the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.”

In September (2019), when during her presidential campaign (which she abandoned later saying she lacks enough resources) she was asked about the Kashmir, especially the alleged “human rights abuses” and the role the US could play in alleviating the situation, she had said, “As to the first piece, it is about reminding people that they are not alone, that we are watching. Because, so often when we see human rights abuses, whether it be in this country or around the world, the abuser will convince those that they abuse that nobody cares and nobody is paying attention, which is a tool of an abuser. So that is part of what we would say. We are watching.”

Reiterating her pledge to revive the state department, she had also said, “There is a lot that needs to happen. Under this administration, they have decimated the state department. decimated. So, as an example of that point, there is currently no ambassador to Pakistan and that needs to be addressed. If the United States in any meaningful way will have any influence on what’s happening in Kashmir, we need to have a representative on the ground.”

Whenever she was asked about India’s Kashmir decision and on both occasions she backed the demand for intervention.

Who Is Kamla?

With her nomination, she becomes just the third woman to be selected as the vice president on a major party ticket. Then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 and New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 were the other two.

Though, Kamla had her own presidential dreams, which she suspended by the end of 2019, saying she lacked the financial resources to continue her campaign. She is one of only three Asian Americans in the Senate and she’s the first Indian-American ever to serve in the chamber.

The Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden with his running mate Kamla Devi Haris. Photo: Twitter

The 55-year-old Kamla was born in Oakland to two immigrant parents, a Black father and an Indian mother. Her father, Donald Harris, was from Jamaica and retired as an economics professor from the premier Stanford University. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist was from Chennai. She, however, defines herself simply as ‘American’. Her mother had immigrated to the US in 1960 to attend a doctoral program at UC Berkeley. She used to come to India every couple of years.

As reported, after her parents divorced, Kamla was seven. She and her younger sister, Maya was raised primarily by their mother, who brought them to India every other year to visit their grandparents. “My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.”

She grew up in Berkeley and spent her high school years living in French-speaking Canada – her mother was teaching at McGill University in Montreal. Later, she attended college in the US, spending four years at Howard University, which she has described as among the most formative experiences of her life. After Howard, she went on to earn her law degree at the University of California, Hastings, and began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Kamla is known for many firsts. She has been a county district attorney; the district attorney for San Francisco – the first woman and first African-American and Indian-origin to be elected to the position.

As reported about her journey, she became the top prosecutor for San Francisco in 2003, before being elected the first woman and the first black person to serve as California’s attorney general in 2010, the top lawyer in America’s most populous state. In her nearly two terms in office as attorney general, Kamla gained a reputation as one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party. She was elected as California’s junior US senator in 2017.

Possible Positions

As she was critical of the situation that emerged in Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370 last year, it is believed that Kamla Harris’s stand on Kashmir may increase concerns in India.

If Biden wins the November elections, vice president Harris’s position on India is likely to be pragmatic like her domestic politics, but with a strong emphasis on the protection of human rights. She is expected to take a stronger stance on human rights issues in India.

In her last interaction with the Indian government, she registered her opposition to the stand taken by India. She strongly backed her Indian-American Democratic colleague Pramila Jayapal’s right to be in a meeting with the Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

As per the reports, S. Jaishankar had cancelled an interaction with the House Affairs Committee, after members refused to exclude Jayapal, a critic of India’s policies on Kashmir, from the meeting. “It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill. I stand with @RepJayapal, and I’m glad her colleagues in the House did too,” Kamla tweeted in December 2019. Jayapal had earlier moved a resolution on the Kashmir issue in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Biden, partner of Kamla in the election, has been critical of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The experts anticipate that the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities towards India could lead to substantial policy changes in some key issues impacting the country.

I agree to the Terms and Conditions of Kashmir Life


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here