“Two Great Nations… Two Great Powers”

U.S. President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi raise a toast during an official state dinner at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

President Joe Biden’s toast at the glittering banquet for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, June 22, encapsulates the tenor of the State Visit and the alliance-like posture Washington, D.C. wishes to strike with New Delhi.

“Two great nations, two great friends, and two great powers. Cheers,” Biden declared as the two leaders, both teetotalers, lifted their crystal glasses of ginger ale.

The administration pulled out all the stops to greet India’s leader. So did Capitol Hill, where bitter partisanship was put aside during the Joint Session address, leading Modi to joke that Congress could call him whenever they needed a ‘bipartisan consensus.’

Speaker McCarthy tweeted, “It was a privilege to welcome Prime Minister @narendramodi to the U.S. Capitol, one of the greatest symbols of democracy in the world.   I look forward to increased economic and national security ties between our two great nations.”

As guests entered the official state dinner attended by more than 400 invitees held on the South Lawn of the White House, Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, responding to a question thrown at him, said, “Its a great relationship, and it will be a great relationship for the rest of the century,” reiterating his position that India would be a bulwark against China.

The visit also put Indian Americans front and center in the conversation of the two leaders, not least because of Vice President Kamala Harris, but also the ubiquitous presence of Indians in the administration. There was unqualified credit for the community’s contributions to America and to the bilateral relationship. It was also a sign that as the number of Indian Americans at all levels of government and elected office rises, the stakes for politicians to cater to their demands also rises.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, and Dr. Sudha Parikh on the South Lawns of White House where PM Modi and President Biden are seen at the podium,  June 22, 2023. PHOTO: courtesy Dr. Parikh

Biden, after lingering on US history since the time of George Washington, said, “And may we always remember that it’s our people — our people that give our partnership strength.  From all the backgrounds and beliefs, they inspire us, challenge us, tell us the truth, and push us forward.  They’re the reason our democracies endure, evolve, reflect, and renew, generation after generation.” He also added, “I’ve seen in my visits to India and I see in the diaspora here in America — in the arts, education; in the media, law, medicine, and science, and business — businesses of every size; in spelling bee champions; even in cricket clubs across the country, including back in my home state of Delaware; and a record number of Indian Americans in Congress, who are here tonight — Ro, Ami, Raja, Shri, Pramila, and — you know — well, I won’t go on.”

At the banquet, Modi’s response to the toast was similarly dominated by praise of the Indian American community.

“You gathered a group of exceptionally talented and remarkable people tonight.  I must commend you for that.  All these people symbolize so much about the India-U.S. relations: our energy, our dynamism, and our potential,” Modi said. “Indian Americans have come a long way in the U.S.  They are proud of India’s values, democratic traditions, and culture and have always found a respectful place in America’s melting pot.  Indian Americans have played a significant role in further strengthening the inclusive society and economy of the U.S.” Modi said much more and joked about how cricket was becoming an American game as well.

As US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said while going into the glitzy State Dinner, “This isn’t a relationship between two men or two governments. It (between) two peoples.”

The Washington Post also noted the diaspora’s importance June 22, prior to the State Dinner, “The pomp and pageantry of a state visit will allow both men to mark a moment of recognition for the Indian diaspora on the global stage, with hundreds of business leaders, policymakers, celebrities and scholars set to gather at the White House. Vice President Harris will be one of dozens of Indian American officials hailing the ties between two countries that successive U.S. presidents have described the world’s oldest and largest democracies.”

As with almost every State visit and in a democracy, there were detractors who came out to demonstrate about India’s human rights record, and 75 members of Congress wrote to Biden urging him to discuss “areas of concern” with Modi. At a press conference, Biden indicated the two leaders were ‘straightforward’ about issues, and Modi denied there was any discrimination in India.As for the measureables, they centered around raising the bar of cooperation on every aspect of the relationship, but also envisaging future technologies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he arrives on the podium to address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, June 22, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It was clear Washington wants India to be a counterweight to China. New Delhi may not join an actual treaty to that effect, but statements by Modi made clear India was willing to take up the mantle. In Congress, he said, “The dark clouds of coercion and confrontation are casting their shadow in the Indo Pacific. …The stability of the region has become one of the central concerns of our partnership.”

Also, following a two-hour private meeting of Biden and Modi, the joint statement issued, reiterated their concern about rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific and the need to protect international law and freedom of navigation in the East and South China Sea.

Vice President Harris indicated the depth of the developing relationship in her statement. “The partnership between the United States and India is one of the most important of the 21st century, and this visit will take our partnership to the next level — from space, to defense, to emerging technology and supply chains,” she tweeted.

Modi’s response shows the deliverables are going to be an ongoing process carefully mapped, and long term.

“Thank you, @VP @KamalaHarris. Our partnership indeed holds immense potential for this century. I am equally enthusiastic about elevating our cooperation in futuristic sectors.” (See Box below for deliverables)

“The richness of form and substance of the visit clearly tells you that it’s an exceptional, landmark, pathbreaking visit,” Reuters quoted Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra saying to reporters. Kwatra added, “The decisions taken during the visit are truly transformative across a wide range of areas. Naturally, it is something which is possible when the countries have deep trust in each other and are in it for long term.”


The two countries announced agreements on semiconductors, critical minerals, technology, space cooperation and defense cooperation and sales.

Some are aimed at diversifying supply chains to reduce dependence on China. Others are aimed at cornering the market in advanced technologies that may feature on the battlefields of the future. They also ended disputes at the World Trade Organization, and India removed some tariffs on U.S. goods.

The United States is India’s largest trading partner but the U.S. has much larger trading relationships with China, the EU, and North American neighbors.

Biden and Modi signed off on a deal to allow General Electric to produce jet engines in India to power Indian military aircraft, through an agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics.

U.S. Navy ships in the region will be able to stop in Indian shipyards for repairs under a maritime agreement, and India will procure U.S.-made armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones.

U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology’s plans a $2.7 billion semiconductor testing and packaging unit, to be built in Modi‘s home state of Gujarat. The U.S. will also make it easier for skilled Indian workers to get and renew U.S. visas.

India also agreed to join the U.S.-led Artemis Accords on space exploration and to work with NASA on a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024.

(updated June 26, 2023)



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