Ash Kalra, a Democratic state Assembly member in California, Dec. 3 announced that he will lead a delegation from the state to India.
The Kalra-championed delegation, officially sanctioned by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, is the first-ever for the state Assembly, and will embark on a two-week trade delegation beginning Dec. 4.
Other members of the six-member delegation are Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Richard Bloom, Sharon Quirk-Silva, Eloise Gómez Reyes and Mark Stone – all of whom are Democrats.
Kalra told India-West in a phone interview that the group of assemblymembers includes a good geographical and gender representation of the state, as well as covering urban and agricultural communities.
The delegation will visit New Delhi, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Mumbai and Punjab to discuss bilateral relations and have conversations on political, economic and social developments in California and India, the news release said.
“Our goal is to identify areas where California’s and India’s policy priorities align — with a special focus on tech’s role in enhancing sustainability in agriculture, energy and transportation,” said Kalra in a statement.
“There is an opportunity here to continue to build long-term relationships between California and India, and explore ways we can work together to achieve our respective goals. In addition, there is strong interest in exploring how we can work together to ensure that, in a connected and tech-based world, democracy can still thrive,” added the first-ever Indian American voted into California’s state Legislature.
The delegation is expected to focus on three major issue areas: agriculture, technology and resilience, and citizenship in a digital democracy, it noted.
Discussions will include how California’s best practices in agriculture can inform India’s own agricultural priorities, what the two bilateral partners can do collaboratively to advance targeted developments in tech to make communities more resilient and sustainable, and what technological changes mean for citizenship and civic engagement, according to Kalra’s office.
Kalra said that a successful trip – which Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is aware of – would be multi-layered.
“Success will be determined by the education of assemblymembers; relationships built with public, private and academic partners in India; and how the Legislature and Governor’s Office builds upon the relationship between India and California,” Kalra told India-West.
In recent years, South Asians have been one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States, increasing in population from 2.2 million in 2000 to 4.9 million in 2015, it said in the release.
California alone has a community of more than a half-million Indian Americans, making the state home to the largest Indian American population in the country, the release said.
Kalra, who recently ran unopposed in the 2018 election, represents San José in the 27th Assembly District and previously served on the San José City Council, and was its first Indian American elected to the local office.
He currently serves as the chair of the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee and also sits on the committees on Education, Judiciary, Labor and Employment, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committees. In his first term, Kalra introduced a diverse range of legislation that includes resources for affordable housing, expanding protections for undocumented students in higher education, defending tenant rights, and addressing issues surrounding sustainability and conservation, the release said.
Adding this leadership role to his resume is icing on the cake, the politician said.
“To be the first Indian American to be elected into the California state Legislature, let alone to lead a delegation to India is beyond my wildest dreams,” Kalra boasted before focusing more on the business at hand. “It’s not only a huge honor, but a responsibility for me to ensure this delegation leads to a stronger relationship between the state and India for many years to come.”