‘Ties destined to be stronger, closer & tighter’
WASHINGTON, Sept 24: US President Joe Biden said today that the relationship between India and the US, the world’s two largest democracies, is destined to be “stronger, closer and tighter”, as he hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House for the first bilateral meeting and discussed a wide range of priority issues, including combating COVID-19, climate change, trade and the Indo-Pacific.
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Prime Minister Modi, who is visiting the US for the 7th time after assuming office in 2014, described Friday’s bilateral summit with Biden as “important” as they’re meeting at the start of the third decade of this century.
“Your leadership will certainly play an important role in how this decade is shaped. The seeds have been sown for an even stronger friendship between India and the US,” Prime Minister Modi told Biden.
Biden said the relationship between India and the US, the largest democracies in the world, is “destined to be stronger, closer and tighter.”
“I’ve long believed that the US-India relationship can help us solve a lot of global challenges. In fact, back in 2006, I had said that by 2020 India and the US will be among the closest nations in the world,” Biden told Modi.
“Today, we’re launching a new chapter in the history of US-India ties, taking on some of the toughest challenges we face together, starting with a shared commitment,” he said.
Biden said he and Prime Minister Modi would talk about what more they can do to fight COVID-19, take on the climate challenge that the world face, and ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific, including with their quiet partners.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region.
“Of course our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including four million Indian-Americans make the United States, stronger every single day,” he said.
Noting that the world would celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday next week, Biden said, “We’re all reminded that his message of non-violence, respect, tolerance, matters today maybe more than ever had.”
On this, Modi said, “Gandhi Ji spoke about trusteeship, a concept which is very important for our planet in the times to come.”
Noting that trade will be an important factor in the Indo-US ties in the coming decade, the Prime Minister said that there is much to be done in the area.
Modi said this decade will be shaped by talent and people-to-people linkages. “I am glad the Indian diaspora is making an active contribution towards the US’ progress.”
He said that technology is becoming a driving force. “We have to utilise our talents to leverage technology for greater global good.”
Modi recalled his interactions with Biden in 2014 and 2016, saying “that time you had shared your vision for ties between India and US. I am glad to see you are working to realise this vision.”
He said that each of the subjects mentioned by the president are crucial for the India-US friendship. “His efforts on COVID-19, mitigating climate change and the Quad are noteworthy,” Modi added.
“This morning I’m hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House for a bilateral meeting. I look forward to strengthening the deep ties between our two nations, working to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, and tackling everything from COVID-19 to climate change,” President Biden had tweeted minutes before the meeting.
While the two leaders have met earlier when Biden was the Vice President of the country, this is for the first time that Biden is meeting Modi after he became the 46th President of the US in January.
Both Biden and Prime Minister Modi have spoken over the phone multiple times and have attended a few virtual summits, including that of the Quad in March hosted by the US President. The last telephone conversation between them took place on April 26.
Earlier, Modi described India and America as “natural partners” as he held the first in-person meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House during which they decided to further cement the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed global issues of common interest, including threats to democracy, Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
“India and America are natural partners. We have similar values, similar geopolitical interests,” Modi said in a joint media appearance with Harris on Thursday, the first-ever person of Indian origin to be elected as the vice-president of the United States.
Noting that India and the US are the largest and oldest democracies, Modi said the two countries share values and their coordination and cooperation is also gradually increasing.
Both the leaders appreciated that the bilateral relationship is on a sound footing, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters here while giving details of the meeting that lasted for an hour.
This is the first meeting between the two leaders. Harris had earlier spoken with Modi over the phone in June during the COVID-19 crisis in India.
“You are the source of inspiration for so many people across the world. I am completely confident that our bilateral relationship will touch new heights under President Biden and your leadership,” Modi told Harris.
Later in tweet, Modi said, “Glad to have met @VP@Kamala Harris. Her feat has inspired the entire world. We talked about multiple subjects that will further cement the India-USA friendship, which is based on shared values and cultural linkages.”
The two leaders were wearing masks as they both spoke in front of a battery of pool reporters from both India and the US.
Modi invited the 56-year-old Democratic leader and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to visit India.
“Both President Biden and you assumed office at a time when our planet faced very tough challenges. In a short time you have had many achievements to your credit be it COVID-19, climate change or the Quad,” Modi said.
On Friday, Vice President Harris said on Twitter that she met Prime Minister Modi to reaffirm the bilateral strategic partnership.
“I met with Prime Minister @NarendraModi to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the United States and India. Working together, we can make progress on important global issues, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to the climate crisis, to strengthening and defending democracy,” she said in the tweet.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga have reaffirmed their commitment towards a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, as they reviewed the multi-faceted bilateral relationship and exchanged views on recent global developments, including in Afghanistan, ahead of the first in-person Quad meeting to be hosted by US President Joe Biden.
During their meeting here on Thursday, the two Prime Ministers agreed to enhance bilateral security and defence cooperation, including in the area of defence equipment and technologies, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Prime Minister Modi thanked Suga for his personal commitment and leadership, both as Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary earlier, in enabling great advances in the India-Japan Special Strategic & Global Partnership over the last few years, it said.
“The two Prime Ministers reviewed the multi-faceted relationship between the two countries and exchanged views on recent global and regional developments, including in Afghanistan. They reaffirmed their commitment towards a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” it said.
The two Prime Ministers welcomed the increasing economic engagement between the two countries.(PTI)
Laughs & smiles
While Modi and Biden discussed Indo-US relations and Mahatma Gandhi’s upcoming birth anniversary on October 2, there was one topic in their conversation that drew laughs and smiles from both leaders.
Delivering his remarks in Hindi, PM Modi mentioned that President Biden had spoken in detail about the existence of his surname in India. Modi said he had brought along a set of documents on the topic and hoped that they would be of help to the US President.
“Mr President (US President Joe Biden), you have talked today in detail about the Biden surname in India and, in fact, you mentioned that to me earlier too. Well, after you mentioned that to me, I looked for documents. Today, I have brought along a set of documents, maybe we’ll be able to take this matter forward and those documents could be of use to you,” Modi said.
The POTUS laughed and asked PM Modi if he had found out whether he was related to the Bidens in India. Biden asked, “Was I related?” To which, PM Modi replied, “Yes!”
PM Modi delivered his remarks without a mask on, while Biden put his mask on later. The PM was interpreted in English by an Indian official. He expressed his gratitude at a warm welcome to the White House and conducted a genial conversation with the US president.
During his first visit to India in 2013, Biden had claimed that he had distant relatives in India, and two years later said there were five Bidens living in Mumbai. When Biden was a senator, he had exchanged letters with Leslie Biden from India.
According to a report, Leslie had written to Joe Biden in April 1981 and even received a response two weeks later. There is, however, confusion over the fact whether Leslie belonged to Mumbai or Nagpur.
Leslie’s grandchild Ian was quoted as saying in the report, “Our grandfather Leslie Biden discovered the name of Joe Biden in the Illustrated Weekly of India, Vol CII Mar 28/April 4, 1981 edition ‘American Expertise’. Joe Biden was a member of the US Senate at the time. Leslie wrote to Joe Biden where he discussed the Biden family tree. He received a reply from Joe Biden and they shared information regarding a common ancestor named John Biden and his wife Anne Beaumont, who was of French origin.”