Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India and America as ‘natural partners’ during the first in-person meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House on Thursday.
During the meet, the two leaders discussed global issues of common interest, including threats to democracy, Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific, and decided to further cement the Indo-US strategic partnership.
“India and America are natural partners. We have similar values, similar geopolitical interests,” Modi said in a joint media appearance with Harris, the first-ever person of Indian origin to be elected as the Vice-President of the United States.
Noting that India and the US are the largest and oldest democracies, Modi said that the two countries share values, and their coordination and cooperation is also gradually increasing.
“Both the leaders appreciated that the bilateral relationship is on a sound footing,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters in Washington, while giving details of the meeting that lasted for an hour.
This is the first in-person meeting between the two leaders. Harris had earlier spoken with Modi over the phone in June during the second wave of COVID-19 in India.
“You are the source of inspiration for so many people across the world. I am completely confident that our bilateral relationship will touch new heights under President Biden and your leadership,” Modi told Harris.
“Glad to have met @VP@KamalaHarris. Her feat has inspired the entire world. We talked about multiple subjects that will further cement the India-USA friendship, which is based on shared values and cultural linkages,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.
Glad to have met @VP @KamalaHarris. Her feat has inspired the entire world. We talked about multiple subjects that will further cement the India-USA friendship, which is based on shared values and cultural linkages. pic.twitter.com/46SvKo2Oxv
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 24, 2021
Modi invited the 56-year-old Democratic leader and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to visit India. “Both President Biden and you assumed office at a time when our planet faced very tough challenges. In a short time, you have had many achievements to your credit, be it COVID-19, climate change, or the Quad,” he said.
A statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the two leaders exchanged views on recent global developments, including the situation in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their commitment towards a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
“The two leaders discussed the COVID-19 situation in their countries, including ongoing efforts to contain the pandemic through expedited vaccination efforts and ensuring supply of critical medicines, therapeutics and healthcare equipment,” the statement said.
“As relates to the Indo-Pacific, the US stresses on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Harris said, amidst China’s aggressive moves in the strategically vital region.
India, the US, and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific, in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region. China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
Harris said that the world is more interconnected and more interdependent than ever before. “And the challenges that we face today have highlighted that fact. COVID-19, climate crisis, and the importance of our shared belief in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said. Both sides acknowledged the importance of collaborative action on climate change.
PM Modi also spoke about India’s push for increasing renewable energy and the recently launched National Hydrogen Mission. “He also emphasized on the importance of lifestyle changes to promote environmental sustainability,” said the MEA statement.
Modi noted that he had the opportunity to speak to Harris after she assumed the Vice Presidency. “One of our interactions happened when India was battling a very tough wave of COVID-19 infections. I recall your kind words of solidarity that time,” Modi said.
Calling the second wave of COVID-19 in India ‘a difficult time’ for the country, Modi said that Harris had extended a helping hand ‘like a family’, and he would always remember that gesture. “I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
“Like a true friend, you had given a message of cooperation and were very full of sensitivity, and immediately after that we found that the US government, the US corporate sector and the Indian community, all came together to help India,” he said.
Both leaders acknowledged the vibrant people-to-people linkages as the bedrock of the mutually beneficial education linkages and the flow of knowledge, innovation and talent between the two countries. Modi said that four million people of Indian origin are acting as a bridge of friendship between the two countries.
Harris described India as a ‘very important partner’ to the US and welcomed the announcement that India will soon resume vaccine export.
India had stopped the export of COVID-19 vaccines after the second wave of the pandemic hit the country in April this year. On Monday, India announced that it would resume the export of surplus COVID-19 vaccines in the fourth quarter of 2021, under the Vaccine Maitri programme, and meet its commitment to the COVAX global pool.
On the issue of the climate crisis, Harris said Modi that the US working together with India will not only have a profound impact on people of nations, but also around the world.
Harris said that it is incumbent on the two nations to protect democracies in the best interests of the people of the two countries.
“As democracies around the world are under threat, it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries, and around the world. And that we maintain what we must do to strengthen democracies at home, and it is incumbent on our nations to, of course, protect democracies in the best interests of people of our countries,” the Vice-President said.
This meeting comes a day ahead of the maiden bilateral meeting between Modi and President Joe Biden, and the Quad Leaders’ Summit at the White House on Friday.
The leaders also discussed areas of future collaboration, including space cooperation, information technology, especially emerging and critical technologies, as well as the cooperation in the healthcare sector.
, “The contribution of Indian professionals, especially in the IT domain, biotechnology, space, and other areas, which represent the knowledge economy was appreciated by both. There was a sense that India had capable professionals in the high-tech sector including research and development capacities, and the US, which is known for cutting edge technologies and innovation, were obvious partners,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said.
Shringla also said that Harris had accepted Modi’s invitation to visit India.
Strong commitment to further deepen bilateral relations!
PM @narendramodi & @VP Kamala Harris exchanged views on recent global & regional developments.
Discussed our vibrant bilateral partnership, covering emerging & critical technologies, healthcare, education & P2P linkages. pic.twitter.com/2y2JxYrGut
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) September 23, 2021
“Strong commitment to further deepen bilateral relations!” tweeted MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, after the meeting of the two leaders. “Leadership-level engagement continues to be an integral element of our expanding bilateral partnership with the USA!” he added in his tweet.
(With inputs from Agencies)