Get ready for Gandhi | Indian government sends gift, hopes for consulate
October 16, 2009 · Updated 10:02 PM
A top Indian diplomat will unveil a bronze statue of Mohandas Gandhi Saturday at the Bellevue Regional Library, suggesting a bit of early hometown decorating for the government that hopes to set up a new regional outpost in the city.
India's prime minister has chosen Bellevue for that nation's proposed Pacific Northwest general consulate, according to sources who spoke with Indian ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar during her visit to the city in August.
The U.S. State Department is reviewing a request for the new outpost, but has not discussed a timeline for a decision. If approved, the deal would mark the first time a foreign government chose Bellevue over Seattle for its consulate.
But there's more than just bragging rights at stake in the matter.
"What we're trying to do is build Bellevue as a center for international trade and services," said city of Bellevue economic development manager Tom Boydell.
The market happens to be ripe for that sort of thing, with American exports to India soaring from $3.7 billion to $21 billion since 2000. Those gains represent a 450-percent increase during that period, as well as a rare trade balance between the U.S. and one of its foreign trading partners.
Washington ranks fourth in the U.S. as a trading partner with India, exporting everything from aerospace goods and computer software to food-processing components and fruit. On top of that, there are professional services.
Boydell says Bellevue, with one-third of its residents born outside the U.S. and an Asian-Indian population that has grown 1,000 percent in the last eight years, is primed to take advantage of these circumstances.
"There are strong ties here to places like China, Japan, Korea, and India," Boydell said. "Those ties represent tremendous trade potential."
The Indian ambassador is scheduled to appear Saturday at the Bellevue regional library (1111 110th Avenue Northeast) for a day of public festivities beginning at 11 a.m. She is expected to unveil the statue of Gandhi at 2 p.m.
"Gandhi is an iconic symbol of everything related to India," said Debadutta Dash, co-chair of the Washington State and India Trade Relations Action Committee. "He's celebrated in India the way we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. here."
The statue is approximately eight feet tall, according to Boydell.