Seven years after it was first announced, India to open new consulate in Seattle

Greater Seattle area houses Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing and other big tech companies; consulate plans get boost with new India-U.S. technology partnership

November 03, 2023 08:15 pm | Updated November 04, 2023 11:42 am IST - NEW DELHI

The decision to open a new Consulate in Seattle was announced in the 2016 India-U.S. joint statement after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and  the then U.S. President Barack Obama. The proposal didn’t make much progress. File

The decision to open a new Consulate in Seattle was announced in the 2016 India-U.S. joint statement after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then U.S. President Barack Obama. The proposal didn’t make much progress. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Seven years after the government had first announced plans to open its sixth consulate in the U.S. city of Seattle, home to many big technology companies, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has appointed its first Consul-General in Seattle. The envoy, Joint Secretary Prakash Gupta, is MEA’s point-person for all multilateral coordination on United Nations issues. He had earlier served in India’s permanent mission at the UN. 

Sources said that the announcement of the consulate opening is expected to be made next week during the “2+2” talks on November 10 when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defence Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin visit Delhi. Mr. Gupta, who will head a two-man diplomatic mission with about 16 non-diplomatic and local staff, is expected to travel to Seattle in mid-November, to operationalise the consulate by the end of the month. Apart from the Indian Embassy in Washington, India maintains consulates in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York, and San Francisco.

While the decision to open the mission was first announced in the 2016 India-U.S. joint statement, after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then U.S. President Barack Obama, the proposal that was to have accompanied a reciprocal U.S. plan to open new consulates in India, didn’t make much progress. The U.S. is now expected to open two new consulates as well, apart from the four at present in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai. During his visit to Washington D.C. in June this year, Mr. Modi had repeated the proposal, and the India-U.S. joint statement said the new consulates were the outcome of “rapid growth in the strategic partnership and demand for travel”.

“The United States intends to initiate the process to open two new consulates in India in the cities of Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. India will take steps to operationalize its new consulate in Seattle later this year, and open two new consulates at jointly identified locations in the United States,” the joint statement issued after PM Modi’s talks with U.S. President Joseph Biden said.

MEA officials did not indicate why the original proposal in 2016 had not moved, but sources said the U.S. government had slowed down plans after a tussle with New Delhi over the government blocking the sale of the old U.S. consulate building in Mumbai’s Lincoln House.

While the sale issue is still unresolved, the plan for the new consulate got another boost in January this year, as the two sides elevated the India-U.S. strategic technology and defence industrial cooperation after the Biden-Modi meeting in June that focused on the technology partnership, the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), and strengthening people-to-people ties.

“India’s decision to open a new consulate in Seattle is welcome news for the many Indians and Indian-Americans who live and work in Washington State, especially the many thousands in the tech sector,” said Atul Keshap, president of the U.S. India Business Chambers (USIBC), and formerly U.S. Charge d’Affaires in India in 2021, when asked about the development. He added that the move would provide crucial visa and passport services, and serve as a hub for all those in Washington State and nine nearby States under the consulate’s jurisdiction, seeking to engage India. 

The Greater Seattle Area on the U.S.’s north-western coast is a major hub for Indians, and houses the headquarters of major technology and engineering companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, travel company Expedia, and luxury fashion retailer Nordstrom, all of which maintain big operations in India. According to estimates, the Indian population in Washington State is about 1,45,000 with King County, where Seattle is located, accounting for about 70% of Indians in the State. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area is also home to the sixth largest Indian-American (U.S. citizens of Indian origin) population in the U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a prominent Democrat who has had some run-ins with the Modi government for her comments of concern over democratic freedoms and human rights in India, is the fourth-time representative of the Washington State 7th District which includes most of Seattle and nearby areas.

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