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World

Pakistani, Indian diaspora rally together for US presidential election

Meet Mr. Shekar Narasimhan, Indian-American investment banker, and Mr. Dilawar Syed, a tech entrepreneur in California, who co-founded the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Victory Fund (AAPIVF), a group that aims to mobilise and elevate voices from these communities in local and national politics.
Published October 26, 2020

Pakistanis and Indians are often seen as being at loggerheads because of strained relations between their respective countries, but in the US, the two communities are part of the same South Asian diaspora and often worked together during political campaigns.

Meet Mr. Shekar Narasimhan, Indian-American investment banker, and Mr. Dilawar Syed, a tech entrepreneur in California, who co-founded the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Victory Fund (AAPIVF), a group that aims to mobilise and elevate voices from these communities in local and national politics.

The two met back in 2012 at the White House, when Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was attacked, which left children, all under the age of 10, and six adults dead.

"Our hearts met," Syed told BBC about his first interaction with Narasimhan. "I found one person in the room who happened to be a fellow South-Asian American who was as emotional as I was."

Over 20 million, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders live in the US, but their voter registration and turnout is said to be lower than the national averages for other communities.

This is something both – Syed and Narasimham – are hoping to change through their organisation.

Explaining, why he opted to work with Syed, Narasimhan said, "He [Syed] has access to different networks that I didn't."

Their group backs Democrats candidate Joe Biden for presidency in the upcoming polls. They believe that Biden's victory will lead to a "more equal, just" America.

The tech entrepreneur said that wasn’t the only thing that bring them on the same platform: "Our values are the same."

Both communities have a lot in common, from languages to food, the two nations share a history. Both are passionate about cricket and enjoy Bollywood.

Narasimhan said that they avoid discussing conflicted issues such as Kashmir.

"We try and avoid it. We say to each other, look, this election is about domestic issues," Narasimhan said.

Since the independence from the British in 1947, both countries share a complicated and contentious history. Millions died in the religious violence that followed.

Since then, the neighbours have fought two wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir.

Narasimhan said the two communities are far more concerned about issues that directly affect their everyday lives. The India-Pakistan dispute is not a big factor.

Syed also shared how thing change in US for the Muslims, Sikhs, people of Arab and South Asian descent after the 9/11 incident.

Both Indian and Pakistani communities are tending to lean towards Democrats.

According to a 2016 survey, 88% of Pakistani Americans and 77% of Indian Americans voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton last election. Only 5% of the former and 16% of the latter voted for Trump, the survey found.

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