“Today we’re launching a new chapter in the history of US-Indian ties”: President Biden

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President Joe Biden meeting with Prime Minister Modi Sept. 24, 2021. Photo Twitter @PMOIndia

The highly anticipated face-to-face bilateral meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was held Sept. 24, 2021, to discuss issues needing immediate attention, in the backdrop of extremely serious global and regional concerns – from Covid to Afghanistan.

“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 think it can benefit the whole world,” Biden said at the Oval Office meeting before the start of the official bilateral meeting between the two delegations.
“And I think that’s begun to come to pass and today we’re launching a new chapter in the history of US-Indian ties and taking on some of the toughest challenges we face together, starting with a shared commitment to ending the Covid pandemic,” the President asserted.

Seeds Have Been Sown

Modi echoed the sentiments. “Today’s bilateral summit is important. We are meeting at the start of the third decade of this century,” said Prime Minister Modi. “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 USA,” he added.

President Joe Biden with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Oval Office at the White House Sept. 24, 2021 for first bilateral meeting. Photo Twitter PMOIndia

“The Prime Minister and I are going to be talking today about what more we can do to fight Covid-19, take on the climate challenges that the world face(s), and ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific, including with our own Quad partners,” President Biden detailed.

“Of course our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are. It’s rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including 4 million Indian-Americans who make the United States stronger every single day,” President Biden said, a statement certain to gladden the hearts of the community.

Modi extolled the 4 million-strong Indian-American talent and its contribution to the U.S. economy, and said such People-to-people exchanges would continue to grow.

“I thank you for the warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation. Earlier, we had an opportunity to hold discussions and at that time you had laid out the vision for India-US bilateral relations. Today, you are taking initiatives to implement your vision for India-US relations,” Modi said.

Biden also mentioned Gandhi Jayanti which will be celebrated Oct. 2 to recognize Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.

“As the world celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday next week, we’re all reminded that his message of nonviolence, respect, tolerance matters today maybe more than it ever has,” said Biden.

In his comments, Modi, responding to President Biden’s reference to Oct. 2 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, emphasized the philosophy of ‘Trusteeship” of the planet that Gandhi espoused.

The U.S.-India relationship was crucial for the two countries and the world, during this decade, to implement this principle of Trusteeship, Modi said,

While President Biden has spoken with Prime Minister Modi on the phone a number of times and has been in virtual summits, this was their first in-person meeting.

President Biden with top U.S. officials and Prime Minister Modi with members of his delegation at press briefing before the official bilateral meeting. Photo Twitter @PMOIndia

The bilateral was expected to cover “a number of priority issues that India is really front and center of,” noted a senior White House official, including pandemic response, the two countries’ response to climate change, technology issues, economic cooperation and trade, as well as the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan following Washington’s exit.

Thanking the President for a “warm welcome, the Indian leader harked back to past interactions, “I recall our interactions in 2014 and 2016. That time you had shared your vision for ties between India and USA. I am glad to see you are working to realize this vision,” Modi said.

He said he is confident that together the two countries could tackle the problems besetting the world. Modi predicted that the cooperation between the two countries would be ‘transformative’ for the world.

The seeds have been sown for Indo-U.S. cooperation, Modi noted. The tradition, the democratic values that both countries are committed to, and the importance of these traditions will only increase further, Modi predicted.

Technology, he said, would be the driving force in today’s world – technology for the service of humanity. And in that context, trade would play a big part. U.S.-India trade, Modi said, was complimentary, with each country having things that the other country needs.

Some Humor

There were jovial moments in the meeting as well.

At the start as Prime Minister Modi was about to be seated in the Oval Office, President Biden showing Modi to his seat, remarked that this seat was occupied almost every day by an Indian-American, referring to Vice President Kamala Harris. President Biden went on to say that Harris’ mother was an Indian, a scientist, ‘and a remarkable woman.”

Later in the meeting, Modi initiated another moment of jollity.

“Mr President, you have talked, today spoken in detail about the Biden surname in India and in fact you had mentioned that to me earlier too. Well, after you mentioned it to me, I hunted for documents and today I have brought along some documents. Maybe we’ll be able to take this matter forward and maybe those documents could be of use to you,” Modi said.

President Biden laughed and asked: “Are we related?” to which Modi replied, “Yes!” and also laughed.

Leading To Bilateral Summit

After President Biden’s election last November, the two leaders have spoken over the phone three times – November 17, 2020; February 8, 2021 and April 26, 2021.

They both attended the virtual summit of The Quad on March 12, 2021, and the Leaders Summit on Climate Change on April 22.

Top Biden administration officials have been visiting India regularly – Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd to New Delhi from March 19-21; Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to New Delhi- April 6 to 8 and again September 11 to 14; and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to New Delhi July 27-28.

Others who made the trek to New Delhi include Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger from August 31 to September 1; and CIA Director Bill Burns after U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

Visits of senior Indian officials to the U.S. over the past few months have included External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Washington DC from May 26 to 29; and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Washington DC from September 1 to 3.

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