In terms of the relationship with India, Maryland is among the States that have sought to foster direct trade links, says its Governor Martin O'Malley.

For better or worse, Martin O'Malley, the current Governor of the state of Maryland and contender for a second gubernatorial stint in the November elections, is a staunch Democrat.

And while it can sometimes seem worse, especially given the dire condition of the United States' job markets and the increasingly accusatory rhetoric emanating from the Republican opposition, it can also be better for U.S.-India ties, Mr. O'Malley argues — and definitely better for Maryland itself.

Speaking to The Hindu at one of his campaign offices near College Park, University of Maryland, the Governor appeared fired up and brimming with hope for his policy agenda, should he succeed in his bid to win a second term in Annapolis, the state capital.

Job creation

Although Maryland, unlike many other U.S. states, has weathered the convulsions of the recession with fewer job losses, job creation nevertheless is at the very apex of Mr. O'Malley's agenda and he recognises that it has both a domestic and an international dimension.

In terms of the relationship with India, whose job-creating potential President Barack Obama has emphasised in the run-up to his November visit, Maryland is among the States that have sought to foster direct trade links.

Specifically, Mr. O'Malley noted, his administration had opened a trade office in New Delhi three years back, for the sole purpose of facilitating trade and commerce partnerships between Indian companies and their counterparts in Maryland.

He said, “Now we have five offices in Asia, including our office in New Delhi, India, run by Indus Links India, whose CEO is Sanjiv Khanna. [The New Delhi office] was opened around three years ago, even during the time of budget cuts here [in Maryland].”

On Maryland's India Representative Office website Mr. Khanna explains that the organisation “assists the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) in recruiting Indian companies to establish a location in Maryland.” It also assists DBED in providing export assistance services to Maryland companies that are seeking to expand their presence in India, Mr. Khanna says.

Mr. O'Malley emphasises that it is such connections with India — and indeed a few more which he spoke to The Hindu about — which make the recent controversy on outsourcing relatively less important.

On outsourcing

On the outsourcing question he is firmly and unapologetically in line with the broader view of the Democratic party, which opposes the outsourcing of federally funded jobs to other countries, especially during tough times such as the present. Yet the Governor speaks not only of trade links but also the role of the Indian-American community and of immigration reform, as factors that could bolster U.S.-India ties.

Regarding the Indian-American community, the Governor pointed out that the Democratic Majority Leader in the Maryland Legislature was Indian-American Kumar Barve, and that his administration had overseen the appointment of over 165 Asian Americans to various key posts in Maryland public boards and commissions. These included Indian-Americans appointed to head the portfolios of human services and economic development, Mr. O'Malley said.

Immigration

On immigration, Mr. O'Malley argued that one area that Republican opponent and former Governor Bob Ehrlich and he “very much disagreed” was Mr. Ehrlich's assertion that “multiculturalism is bunk, that history has shown that a multicultural people can never survive or thrive.”

Referring to a recent gubernatorial candidate debate conducted by the Washington Post, Mr. O'Malley added that Mr. Ehrlich had likened “new Americans” — Mr. O'Malley's inclusive term for legal immigrants — to “someone that is breaking into your home in the middle of the night,” and that Mr. Ehrlich had asked if such persons should be considered a new family member.

More broadly, the incumbent Governor said, “In order for us to be a strong country and to be good neighbours internationally, we have to embrace that aspect of American history which has always made us strong, which is the diversity of people that come together to create new cures, new economies, new inventions and things that make our world a better place and make us a moral leader.”

While President Obama has likely shelved comprehensive immigration reform until after November's Congressional elections, Mr. O'Malley said in the context of such reform it was certainly important to do a better job on immigration enforcement and protect the U.S.' borders.

However, he added, it was also necessary to find that “precious consensus that has eluded us over the last several years, because of people that subscribe to that divisive, fear-mongering ideology that Bob Ehrlich embraces, which would have us believe that people who are here and are not able to get citizenship somehow all came here illegally.” Not all such people came here illegally to begin with, he said.

Mr. O'Malley said that similar to the country's founding fathers he subscribed to the concept of e pluribus unum, or “out of many, one.” Given Maryland's record for predominantly voting in Democrats, it would appear the people of this state agree.

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