On his first state visit to USA in June, PM Narendra Modi declared the opening of the sixth Indian Consulate in Seattle, Washington and also revealed plans to establish two more consulates in America. While making this announcement during his address to thousands of Indian immigrants in Washington DC, he quipped about the requests that would follow for the seventh and eighth Indian consulates to be set up elsewhere in the US.
This remark, although done humorously, isn’t baseless. For example, the Indian population living in Southern California has long been urging a new Indian Consulate in Los Angeles. And given the highest likelihood of two new consulates to be set up anywhere in the USA, their demand to get Los Angeles recognized as a prime location for a new Indian consulate, is gaining momentum in the form of a petition to the government of India.
Representing the voice of the Indian Community in Southern California, Gunjan Bagla – an Indian American businessman settled in SoCal – has started the petition appealing the Indian Government to establish a new consulate in Los Angeles, America’s second largest city. In a week since its start, the petition has garnered over 2000 supporters. Gunjan Bagla is the founder and director of Amritt Ventures, a consultancy firm in Malibu. He is also an author, blogger, public speaker and proud Californian.
Currently, the United States has five Indian consulates: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta (in addition to the Embassy at Washington DC) to serve 4.5 million people of Indian origin spread throughout the USA. California is the largest state in the country both in terms of US population and Indian immigrant population (accounting for nearly 20% of the total Indian diaspora in the States). Although California has an Indian Consulate at San Francisco, it is hardly able to extend its services to the fast growing Indian community in the south coast.
Moreover, for those living in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and New Mexico, the Indian consulate in San Francisco is way too far – a long drive of more than 8 hours. And booking a flight all the way to Northern California to visit an overburdened consulate with long wait times and fairly little chance of getting the job done in the same visit (especially in case of miscellaneous services that do not require an appointment) is more than just an expensive affair.
“Currently, we are forced to drive or take costly flights with no guarantee of the success of the visit and end up traveling multiple times from Los Angeles due to the lack of customer service and long wait times to get anything done,” commented an LA resident of Indian origin who signed the petition. Many others echoed similar thoughts. It’s unfortunate that India, one of the top 5 largest economies in the world, does not have a consulate in Los Angeles while the city hosts local consulates of almost all G20 countries.
What also makes a strong case for a new Indian consulate in Los Angeles is the fact that this city, in its capacity as a hub for international trade, is of critical importance as far as India-US strategic partnership and bilateral ties are concerned. Petitioner Gunjan Bagla notes that the absence of a consulate or diplomatic mission in such a significant location affects American businesses’ plans to invest in India. for an area like Greater Los Angeles with a dense Indian immigrant population, both a dedicated consulate and nonstop flight service to India from Los Angeles Airport (LAX) have long been overdue.
“Opening a new consulate in Los Angeles would be a strategic step forward in strengthening diplomatic between both countries. The consulate will facilitate not only cultural exchange but also trade relations between Southern California and India. The stronger the commercial and cultural ties between SoCal Indian Americans and their home country, the more business flights to India from Los Angeles,” said Sourav Agarwal, the Editor of Travel Beats, a leading community portal for Indians in the US.