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RSS man is special envoy in US

San Francisco: In spite of misgivings over his saffron links, spokespersons for the 1.7 million-strong Indian-American community welcomed the possible appointment of Bhishma K Agnihotri as India's "special envoy" for NRI affairs in the US.

Agnihotri's appointment, a formal announcement of which is expected soon, will be the first time New Delhi has picked an Indian-American for a diplomatic role.

It's expected that Agnihotri, chancellor of the Southern University Law Centre in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a Green Card holder, will be virtually given diplomatic status when he takes on his new assignment.

The Agnihotri appointment has triggered concern among officials in the Ministry of External Affairs who fear such a move would undermine the role of Lalit Mansingh, the present Ambassador in Washington, DC, who is a retired career Foreign Service officer and a political appointee.

Besides fears that Mansingh's turf and authority were being poached, Agnihotri's affiliation to the RSS has also been cited as a reason for concern. However, Mukund Mody, founder and former president of the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party, brushing aside these concerns remarked: "He ( Agnihotri) has impeccable qualifications. Sure, he has strong RSS links, but these must not be seen as a disqualification."

President of the Overseas Friends of Congress Surinder Singh Malhotra, said the Indian-American community should have been given the responsibility of picking its representative."I have strong reservations about appointing someone who is not a true representative of the NRI community." Chairman of the Indo-American Vision Foundation Nadadur Vardhan said "Right now, it looks like the RSS wants to do someone a favour.

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