“The challenges and opportunities facing the world in this century require that India and the United States work and lead together, and we are,” US President Biden said, bestowing a co-leadership role for India in remarks welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House on a state visit.
In response, Modi said the friendship between India and the US will be instrumental in enhancing the strength of the whole world, adding, “India and the US are committed to working together for the global good and peace, stability and prosperity.”Words, and even the limited visuals beamed across the world, could hardly convey the warmth and vibrancy of the ceremonial reception that Modidescribed as an honor and pride for the 1.4 billion people of India and the more than 4 million people of Indian origin living in the US.American officials, by now familiar with the color and numbers Indians bring to any India-related event in the world, were still wowed as desi song-and-dance vied with the military band in arguably the largest ceremonial reception in White House history.
Thousands of Indian-Americans streamed into the White House south lawns festooned with flags, chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Modi, Modi, Modi,” giving the Indian prime minister a rock star welcome. The Prime Minister returned their affection by repeatedly praising their achievements and contributions, noting the kind of access they now had to the White House while recalling his own first trip as a commoner (when he stood outside the gates to be photographed).
US President Biden welcomes PM Modi with pomp and pageantry as he seeks to bolster ties
About the only daylight in the otherwise convivial embrace between the two sides was on the Russia-Ukraine issue, with President Biden blaming Moscow for the world’s economic troubles arising from its invasion of Ukraine, an assessment New Delhi does fully share.
“India and the US are working closely on eliminating poverty, expanding access to healthcare, addressing climate change and tackling food and energy insecurity triggered by the Russian war on Ukraine,” Biden said, slipping in a Moscow cocktail into the speech. Modi eschewed any reference to Russia in his remarks although US officials claimed on the eve of the talks that there has been a “subtle shift” in India’s position, particularly after Modi told President Putin that now is not the era for war,
Neither side directly addressed the elephant — or dragon — in the room although some of the remarks implicitly referred to China. “Decades from now, people will look back and say that the Quad bent the arc of history for global good,” Biden said, amid the general perception in the US commentariat that the American embrace of India is largely aimed at countering Beijing.
There was also an oblique reference by President Biden to issues of religious freedom and diversity, core principles that he acknowledged applied to both US and India.
“Equity under the law, freedom of expression, religious pluralism, and diversity of our people are the core principles that have endured and evolved, even as they faced challenges, throughout our nation’s histories,” he said.
Modi pushed back as subtly in his remarks: “Both countries take pride in their diversity, and both of us believe in the fundamental principle of “In the interest of all, for the welfare of all,” he said.