Washington, January 22:
President Joe Biden “respects and values” the “long, bipartisan, successful” relationship between leaders of the United States and India and looks forward to continuing it, the White House spokesperson said Thursday.
President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have spoken at least once since the American leader’s election last November, and could again soon as the American leader begins calling up counterparts in allied and partner countries. Biden will start making these calls Friday, with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, being the first.
“President Biden, who of course has visited India many times, respects and values the long, bipartisan, successful relationship between leaders in India and the United States. He looks forward to a continuation of that,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in response to a question at the daily news briefing.
As further proof of Biden’s support for the relationship, Psaki brought up Vice-President Kamala Harris. “Obviously, he selected — and yesterday, she was sworn in — the first Indian American to serve as President or Vice President, certainly a historic moment for all of us in this country, but a further, you know, cementing of the importance of our relationship.”
Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, came to the US from Chennai, India and her father, Donald Harris, from Jamaica.
Shortly after Biden was sworn-in Wednesday, Modi posted tweets congratulating the president and committing to work with him. “My warmest congratulations to Joe Biden on his assumption of office as the President of the United States of America. I look forward to working with him to strengthen India-US strategic partnership,” he had said in one of them.
In the second, he said, “We stand united and resilient in addressing common challenges and advancing global peace and security”. And in yet another post, he had said, “The India-US partnership is based on shared values. We have a substantial and multifaceted bilateral agenda, growing economic engagement and vibrant people to people linkages. Committed to working with President @JoeBiden to take the India-US partnership to even greater heights.”
Biden and Modi go back further than the November call. In 2014, Biden, who was vice-president then, had hosted a lunch for the Indian prime minister at the state department. Modi, who was observing Navratri fasts at the time, skipped the meal part of the event, as he had at the dinner hosted for him and his team by President Barack Obama at the White House.
Of Biden’s visits referenced by Psaki, the most recent was in July 2013, when he was vice-president. He had visited India in preparation for then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s upcoming US visit. Singh, incidentally, was President Obama’s first state guest, in 2009.
As the new administration settles in, policy makers and experts in both the US and India are eager to know its policy and approach on India. Mitt Romney, the Republican senator, asked Antony Blinken, the nominee for secretary of states, about it at the latter’s confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Blinken had spoken of the same bipartisan support, but he had put in the context of ties between the two countries, rather than their leaders. He had gone on to say that given all that has already been done by the previous administration, “One area I think that has a lot of promise, and maybe even necessity, is actually climate,” Blinken said at his confirmation hearing by the senate foreign relations committee. “At the current rate things are going, India is poised over the next two or three decades to catch up to China in terms of the emissions that it produces.”