Ambassador Shringla departs for India after a flurry of meetings, receptions

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India’s Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla called on President Donald Trump at the White House,, on January 11, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ambassador’s Twitter.

India’s Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who left for New Delhi this week to take on his new assignment as Foreign Secretary, had a series of high profile meetings in Washington, DC, last week – including meeting President Trump, and also attended a reception organized by the USIBC, apart from hosting a reception too, at his house, in Washington, DC.

Shringla will succeed Vijay Keshav Gokhale, who completes his two-year term on January 28, 2020. Shringla will assume his new post as India’s Foreign Secretary the next day.

On Saturday, Shringla called on Trump at the Oval Office in the White House, and thanked him for his “steadfast support” for strengthening the India-US strategic partnership.

The hugely popular Shringla, who made a big impact in India-US ties, in his brief one-year stint as Ambassador, was lauded by Trump Administration officials, for furthering ties between the two countries.

Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, described Shringla as the “Captain of India-US relationship,” reported ANI.

Wells also said that Shringla would play an important part in the India-US relations to achieve its potential.

US Chief of Protocol Can Henderson hosted a rare reception for Shringla at the Blair House, reported ANI. A reception at this venue for an outgoing envoy is normally reserved only for a few countries and India became one of them.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla (right), India’s Ambassador to the US, and Jaggi Vasudev, commonly known as Sadhguru, at a farewell reception at “Embassy House”, in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2020. Photo:- Jay Mandal/On Assignment

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev was the star attraction at a reception Shringla hosted at his residence, in Washington, DC.

“This relationship between the two most resilient democracies on the planet is not just important for these two nations. How we build this relationship will determine many things globally,” Sadhguru, said in his remarks, at the reception, reported PTI.

“This is something, I believe, was unfortunately not understood till about 10-15 years ago, is now everybody beginning to see that. Building this relationship is not just wellbeing of these two nations but definitely the wellbeing of this world,” Sadhguru added.

In his remarks, the spiritual guru hoped that “in the next few years this relationship would mature into not just hit and run kind of events but a long-term relationship which will benefit the whole world.”

The reception at the residence of the Indian ambassador was attended by eminent Indian Americans from across the country, top officials from the Trump administration, senior Congressional staffers, and policymakers, reported PTI.

The Indian Consul Generals from its consulates in New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco also attended the farewell. Ambassadors from several countries also attended the reception, the report said.

“As I leave, I take with me the distinct feeling that we really have one of our most important relationships right here in the US. It is a relationship that will continue to be important for us in time to come,” Shringla said in his brief farewell remarks, the report noted.

Earlier, last week, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) hosted a reception for Shringla, in Washington, DC.

In his remarks, Shringla spoke of the long-term relationship between the two countries, reported The American Bazaar.

“The US-India strategic partnership that we look to not for the next four to five years of an election cycle, but a long-term relationship in which we must see a mutuality of benefits between two countries that have the same values, same shared principles and the same way of looking at how we would like to see the rest of the world evolve,” he said, adding also that “we must look for ways to provide a policy framework and facilitation that could secure our relationship on the economic side that is sustainable in the long term.”

Shringla added: “What we are really looking at is to engage in a long-term framework under which our two countries can provide free market access to goods from each other’s countries. As two countries that have a lot of complementarities in trade, we can open up windows that are exclusively for our companies and thereby even double our trade figure of $160 billion.”

Shringla pointed out some of the recent developments in Indo-US ties, including the fact that there have been four meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump, in 2019, and visits to Washington by senior Indian officials, last year: external affairs minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, defense minister Rajnath Singh, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Shringla kept himself busy during his time as India’s top envoy in the US, visiting 21 states within the short span of a year, reported The American Bazaar. Some six governors have either visited India or will be visiting in the near future leading business delegations.

India’s Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla has been appointed India’s new Foreign Secretary. File photo at the Indian Consulate in New York: Peter Ferreira

Shringla, an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1984 batch, who topped the civil services exam that year, has held several important positions in his diplomatic career spanning 35 years. He has served as India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Thailand, apart from serving in France, India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in the US, Vietnam, Israel and South Africa.

Shringla has worked closely with India’s Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar when he was Foreign Secretary (2015-2018), and Jaishankar is understood to have strongly endorsed his appointment to the top job in the Foreign Service, reported The Hindu, last year.

In particular, Shringla’s handling of India’s neighborhood will be valued in his new assignment, given recent tensions with Bangladesh over the CAA-NRC controversy, China’s new inroads in Nepal and other South Asian countries, as well as continuing tensions with Pakistan, which have practically derailed the SAARC process, the report said.

Shringla assumed charge as Indian Ambassador to the United States on January 9, 2019, as the youngest Ambassador of India to the United States. He received a rousing welcome at the Congressional Reception hosted by the Senate India Caucus and Congressional Caucus on India which was attended by an unprecedented 67 Members of the US Congress, including Senators.

A highlight of Shringla’s tenure in the US was his planning and organization of the hugely popular “Howdy Modi” event in Texas, that saw President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi address a rally together. The meet was widely publicized and reported, and was deemed a success.

Shringla has actively engaged with US think-tanks where he has spoken, participated in round-table discussions and given keynote speeches on various topics related to India-US relations and on other topics of mutual interests to both countries, according to Wikipedia. In April of this year, Shringla addressed the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he emphasized upon the need to preserve a global order based on international rules that all can adhere to.

Also last week, Congressman Joe Wilson, a member of the India Caucus, hosted a farewell breakfast for Shringla, in association with the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce (IAICC) on January 9, at Capitol Hill.

At the farewell, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Reps. Ted Yoho, Michael Guest, and Dr. Neal Dunn along with Ambassador Amit Kumar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Consul General of India in Atlanta, and KV Kumar, President & CEO, IAICC, congratulated shringla on his new appointment, according to a press release.

Congressman Joe Wilson (third from right), a member of the India Caucus, hosted a farewell breakfast for Shringla (in middle), in association with the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce (IAICC) on January 9, at Capitol Hill. Photo: IAICC

Wilson honored Shringla with a Special Congressional Recognition, and said he is looking forward to working with him in his new role. On behalf of IAICC, Dr. Nandini Selvam, President of Women in Business & Leadership, presented a tie to Shringla.

The members of Congress recognized “India as a great friend of the US,” and noted the excellent progress made by Shringla in India-US relations during his tenure. They also appreciated Shringla for his pro-active and consistent engagement with the US Congress.

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