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'I Love Your Country,' New House Member Tells U.S. Officials

Rep. Curt Clawson hasn't been in Congress long — he was sworn into office exactly one month ago. We mention that as a caveat, because in a congressional hearing Thursday, Clawson seems to have mistaken Americans who work in the U.S. departments of State and Commerce for representatives of India's government.

As relayed by Foreign Policy's The Cable blog, Clawson, a Republican from Florida, seemed eager to show that he's a fan of India and its culture, speaking about Bollywood movies and Indian cities in which he's done business — and in an apparent misunderstanding, telling the two witnesses, "I am familiar with your country; I love your country."

Those witnesses were Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Arun Kumar, who is both the Commerce Department's director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and the assistant secretary for Global Markets.

Here's the subcommittee's archive video, below; Clawson speaks in two sections, with an initial introduction beginning at 1:36:20 and questions for the witnesses at the 2:13:50 mark.

Thursday's session of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific centered on how business and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and India might improve under its newly elected government — something Clawson said he was enthusiastic about.

But The Cable's John Hudson calls the meeting, Clawson's first day on the panel, "intensely awkward," noting that Biswal and Kumar seemed unsure how to respond to the freshman lawmaker's seeming assumption that they represented Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

In one exchange, Clawson highlighted the need for India to ease the path for U.S. investments there, saying, "I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?"

Biswal paused before responding, "I think your question is to the Indian government, and we certainly share your sentiments, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S."

"Of course," Clawson said.

Seated at Biswal's side, Kumar smiled.

Clawson's office hasn't responded to "multiple requests" for a comment, The Cable says.

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