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India gets special treatment in GOP platform

We've already taken a look at the 10 most divisive foreign-policy issues in the 2012 Republican platform, which will be publicly released shortly at the GOP convention in Tampa.

But there's one passage that has flown under the radar so far. Take a close look at the draft platform that Politico discovered on the Republican National Committee's  website on Friday, and you'll see that the Republican party arguably lavishes more praise on India than on any country mentioned in the document except Israel and Taiwan. The plan reads: 

We welcome a stronger relationship with the world's largest democracy, India, both economic and cultural, as well as in terms of national security. We hereby affirm and declare that India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner. We encourage India to permit greater foreign investment and trade. We urge protection for adherents of all India's religions. Both as Republicans and as Americans, we note with pride the contributions to this country that are being made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry. 

The passage particularly stands out when compared with the more businesslike language employed in the GOP's 2008 platform (the 2008 Democratic platform, for its part, praised India as a "natural strategic all[y]"):

We welcome America's new relationship with India, including the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord. Our common security concerns and shared commitment to political freedom and representative government can be the foundation for an enduring partnership.

Why the change in wording? According to the Indian news portal Rediff, Gopal T.K. Krishna, an Indian-American convention delegate from the battleground state of Iowa, worked with GOP staffer Neil Bradley to craft the "unprecedented" platform language.

Krishna initially sent Bradley a 282-word proposal that included an affirmation of the "special relationship" between the two countries, a call for the "free movement of intellectuals" between India and the United States, a reflection on the recent shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a pledge to help India establish nuclear power plants, and an endorsement of bilateral trade, including the import of "beef, pork, corn, soybeans and wheat" from the States (rather detailed language for a statement of party principles). Bradley, Rediff explains, got back to him with a counteroffer:

Bradley then got back to Krishna saying, "I wanted to raise three potential issues. Immigration is being handled by another subcmte so I worry about including immigration specific language here. The specificity of the trade language could also give rise to each of our country specific sections getting caught up in discussions about emphasising some exports over others."

"Finally, I worry about addressing the Wisconsin shooting here and the possibility that we inadvertently do not address the other recent shootings elsewhere," he said. "I took the liberty of addressing these items while attempting to incorporate your points into style being used for the larger draft. Do you think this might work?" 

Krishna then submitted three amendments to this draft which included the all-important language that "we hereby affirm and declare that India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner."

Not only does the passage highlight the give-and-take behind the compromise language we'll see in the final platform this week, but it also highlights the growing importance of Indian-Americans as a political bloc. A record number of Indian-Americans competed for U.S. House seats in 2010, and Indian-American leaders such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and California Attorney General Kamala Harris will speak at the Republican and Democratic conventions, respectively. As the Times of India explains, Indian-Americans, who overwhelmingly support Barack Obama, wield more political influence than their numbers might suggest:

Assuming a higher turnout than the usual 40% or so for the general population, only around 500,000 Indian-Americans are expected to vote nationwide in the November election, and in no state or district are they in sufficiently high numbers to influence the outcome.

But what they lack in numbers they contribute in some measure in money and activism. No other ethnic group outside white, African-Americans, and Latinos - including Chinese-American and Filipino-Americans who are numerically larger groups than Indians - have as many political heavyweights.

The Rediff article touches on this very point:

Krishna had informed Bradley that "if the whole platform contains only bland language, it would be disappointing to myself and others like me, who are looking for courageous commitments, faithful friendships and specific statements from the campaign," and added, 'We hope our trips to Tampa will not turn out to be a total waste."

Krishna may have already suffered a setback now that Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's Indian-American governor, has announced that he won't be speaking at the convention as planned so that he can focus on preparing for Tropical Storm Isaac. But if the language Krishna crafted makes it into the final platform, flying to Tampa will have been well worth the effort.

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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Sinister globalist plot opposed in GOP platform draft

Back in May, when the latest round of controversy over the Law of the Sea treaty was raging in Congress, I took a look at seven other seemingly harmless international agreements on which the U.S. was conspicuous by its absence, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The "Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations" section of the draft GOP platform released by Politico today, not only explicitly rejects these treaties, but veers pretty close to black helicopter territory:

Under our Constitution, treaties become the law of the land. So it is all the more important that the Congress -- the senate through its ratifying power and the House through its appropriating power -- shall reject agreements whose long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear. These include the U.N. Convention on Women's Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty as well as the various declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. Because of our concern for American sovereignty, domestic management of our fisheries, and our country's long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty and congratulate Senate Republicans for blocking its ratification. We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax.

Assuming Romney follows through on opposition to Law of the Sea if elected, that would be a shift from the Bush administration, which supported it,  and also put him at odds with U.S. military commanders. The reference to the ominous "long-range impact on the American family" could be a dog-whistle to homseschooling groups, some of whom fear that these treaties would empower international bureaucrats to interfere with the raising of their children. And despite some debate at the U.N. over the possibility of a global carbon tax, the body does not have the authority to impose such a tax on its members. 

Then there's Agenda 21. For those not familiar with this sinister plot, it's a non-binding U.N. agreement passed in 1992, and signed by President George H.W. Bush, that commits signatories to the goal of sustainable development through responsible land use and energy conservation. It doesn't actually legally compel its signatories to do anything, though the fact that various local green initiatives have been promoted as being in accordance with the agenda is evidence enough of a conspiracy for some.

The Times reported in February that Tea Party activists were increasingly referring to Agenda 21 in local debates on issues ranging from bike lanes to smart meters on home appliances:

Tom DeWeese, the founder of the American Policy Center, a Warrenton, Va.-based foundation that advocates limited government, says he has been a leader in the opposition to Agenda 21 since 1992. Until a few years ago, he had few followers beyond a handful of farmers and ranchers in rural areas. Now, he is a regular speaker at Tea Party events.

Membership is rising, Mr. DeWeese said, because what he sees as tangible Agenda 21-inspired controls on water and energy use are intruding into everyday life. “People may be acting out at some of these meetings, and I do not condone that. But their elected representatives are not listening and they are frustrated.”

Fox News has also helped spread the message. In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to “enhance federal engagement with rural communities,” Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order.”

The movement has been particularly effective in Tea Party strongholds like Virginia, Florida and Texas, but the police have been called in to contain protests in states including Maryland and California, where opponents are fighting laws passed in recent years to encourage development around public transportation hubs and dense areas in an effort to save money and preserve rural communities.

Agenda 21 has been a favorite hobbyhorse of Glenn Beck, who argues that it is a covert means of achieving "centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth" as well as Alex Jones' all-purpose conspiracy theory clearinghouse Infowars, which calls it a "globalist death plan for humanity." 

The once fringe movement has been going mainstream this year. The RNC adopted a resolution condemning Agenda 21 in January and Newt Gingrich made frequent reference to it in his presidential campaign, calling it "part of a general problem of the United Nations and other international bureaucracies that are seeking to create an extra-constitutional control over us." He promised to block the initiative as one of his first executive orders if elected. Given how vague that actual text of Agenda 21 is when you read it, it's hard to imagine that anyone would notice if he did.

Of course, those of us downplaying the nefarious globalist agenda behind bike lanes and high-speed rail projects could just be naive. Good thing brave public servants like Judge Tom Head are getting ready.