India-US ties about democratic values, diversity: Joe Biden to Narendra Modi

Pointing out that Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary will be marked next week, the US President said his message of “non-violence, respect, tolerance matters today maybe more than ever".

UNDERLINING THAT the relationship between India and the US is “destined to be stronger, closer and tighter”, US President Joe Biden said during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House Friday that the partnership is about a “shared responsibility to uphold democratic values” and their “joint commitment to diversity”.

Pointing out that Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary will be marked next week, the US President said his message of “non-violence, respect, tolerance matters today maybe more than ever”.

Modi, who spoke after Biden at the Oval Office, said the next decade will be a “transformative period” in India-US relations, and referred to “democratic values, traditions to which both countries are committed” and said the “importance of these traditions will only increase further”.

This was the first in-person meeting between the two leaders after Biden assumed office in January, although they had spoken thrice on telephone and participated in three virtual summits together.

On Friday, they also took part in the first in-person Quad leaders summit at the White House along with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga.

During his meeting with Modi, Biden stressed on Covid, climate change and Quad as three topics of discussion. Modi spoke about tradition, talent, technology, trade and trusteeship (five Ts). They spoke for about 20 minutes and then had a meeting for about an hour or so.

“I think that the relationship between India and the United States, the largest democracies in the world, is destined to be stronger, closer and tighter, and I believe it can benefit the whole world,” Biden said.

“Of course our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are…It’s about our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including four million Indian Americans who make the United States stronger every single day,” he said.

“The world celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday next week. We’re all reminded that his message of non-violence, respect, tolerance, matters today maybe more than ever,” the US President said.

Modi later tweeted that he “had an outstanding meeting” with Biden. “His leadership on critical global issues is commendable. We discussed how India and the USA will further scale-up cooperation in different spheres and work together to overcome key challenges like Covid and climate change,” Modi said.

Biden said they are launching a “new chapter in the history of India-US ties”, taking on some of the “toughest challenges we face together, starting with a shared commitment”.

Apart from Covid and climate challenge, he said they will be talking about what more they can do to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific, including with their partners.

Outlining a decade-long vision of bilateral ties, Modi said: “I find that under your leadership the seeds have been sown for Indo-US relations to expand, and for all democratic countries in the world, this is going to be a transformative period. I can see that very clearly.”

While speaking about democratic “traditions”, Modi also talked about talent.

“There are more than four million Indian Americans who are participating in the journey of progress of America. When I look at the importance of this decade, and the role that is going to be played by this talent of the Indian Americans, I find that the people to people talent will play a greater role and Indian talent will be a full partner in this relationship. And I see that your contribution is going to be very important in this,” he said.

Speaking about “technology”, Modi said “the most important driving force in the world today would be that of technology and the technology that is going to be for the service and for the use of humanity. I find that opportunities for this are going to be tremendous.” India and the US have been partners in the defence, security and nuclear sectors.

The Prime Minister also touched upon the issue of trade, which has been a challenge between the two countries, and spoke about its “complementary” nature. “Between India and the United States, trade will continue to assume importance, and we find that the trade between our two countries is actually complementary. There are things that you have and there are things that we have, and then we in fact complement each other. I find that the area of trade during this decade is also going to be tremendously important,” he said.

Referring to climate change, an issue of priority for the Biden-Harris administration, Modi said: “You just mentioned that on the second of October we will be celebrating the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi always used to talk about the principle of trusteeship, trusteeship of the planet. It means that the planet that we have, we have to bequeath it to the following generations, and this sentiment of trusteeship is going to assume more and more importance globally, but also between the relations between India and the United States.”

Biden also spoke about Vice President Harris’ Indian origins and her mother being a scientist, while Modi said he had looked for Biden’s ancestors in India and brought some papers about them.

The meeting was attended among others by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, NSA Jake Sullivan and Special Presidential climate envoy John Kerry. From the Indian side, Modi was accompanied by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, among others.

Addressing the Quad leaders, meanwhile, Biden said this is a grouping of “democratic partners who share a world view and have a common vision for the future” and are “coming together to take on key challenges”.

“Our vaccine initiative is on track to produce an additional 1 billion doses of vaccine in India to boost global supply,” Biden said.

Modi said Quad has decided to “move forward with positive thinking and a positive approach”, and “play the role of a force for global good”.

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