Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India and America as “natural partners” as he held the first in-person meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House during which they decided to further cement the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed global issues of common interest, including threats to democracy, Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
Noting that India and the US are the largest and oldest democracies, Modi said 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.
Harris had earlier spoken with Modi over the phone in June during the Covid-19 crisis 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.
“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,” Modi said.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said the two leaders exchanged views on recent global developments, including 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 related 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.
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 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. Prime Minister Modi spoke about India’s push for increasing renewable energy and the recently launched National Hydrogen Mission. He also emphasized the importance of lifestyle changes to promote environmental sustainability.
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.
“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.
Modi said that the US Government, companies based in the USA and the Indian diaspora were very helpful when India was fighting a tough wave of Covid-19 infections.
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 our 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 New Delhi’s announcement that it will soon resume vaccine export. On the issue of the climate crisis, she told Modi that the US is working together with India can have not only a profound impact on people of nations but also around the world itself.
Harris said that it is incumbent on the two nations to protect democracies in the best interests of 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,” she said.
US Vice President Kamala Harris, during her maiden meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has “suo motu” referred to Pakistan’s role in terrorism, saying that there were terror groups working in the country and asked Islamabad to take action so that it does not impact on America and India’s security.
According to Mr Shringla, Ms Harris said that there were terror groups that were working in Pakistan. “She asked Pakistan to take action so that this will not impact on US security and that of India. She agreed with the Prime Minister’s briefing on the fact of cross border terrorism, and the fact that India has been a victim of terrorism for several decades now and on the need to rein in, and closely monitor Pakistan’s support for such terrorist groups,” Mr Shringla said.