Joe Biden ‘proudest’ of his work in strengthening India-US ties: Top US official

US NSA Jake Sullivan and NSC senior director for technology Tarun Chhabra are expected to travel to India later this month

Prashant Jha
First Published10 Apr 2024
India-US ties: A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Joe Biden, in New Delhi Sept. 8, 2023
India-US ties: A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Joe Biden, in New Delhi Sept. 8, 2023(Photo: PTI)

Washington: Among the achievements that US President Joe Biden is “proudest” of is his effort to build stronger ties with India, and the two countries are working together more closely than ever before in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific and on technology, a senior US administration official said on Tuesday.

He said that leaders on both sides have shed their “ambivalence” about the relationship, and the US sees engagement with India as “central” to everything it does on the global stage.

The official was responding to a question by HT at a briefing on Japan PM Fumio Kishida’s landmark visit to Washington DC on Wednesday and how India fit into this wider Indo-Pacific architecture. The official’s comments come at a time when there has been speculation about a dip in India-US ties due to the back and forth between the two governments on internal Indian political developments.

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While the focus of the briefing was on the qualitative transformation in security ties between Washington DC and Tokyo in the face of a shared challenge from China, the official — who is closely involved with shaping US policy on India — offered a wider contextual explanation of America’s Indo Pacific strategy. He rejected the notion that it was based on US “assigning” role to partners in the region, and said the US was instead “working in partnership with like-minded and other states” who shared common views on the features of the “global operating system” that everyone had benefited from and should be upheld.

On how India fit into this wider network, the official said, “I think if you ask the President, one of the things that he is proudest of is his efforts to build a stronger relationship between the US and India. And I do believe, both in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and on key issues like technology, the US and India are working more closely together than ever before.”

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He added that the bilateral relationship was “trending substantially in a positive direction” and that the level of engagement across every possible vector — “security, intelligence, technology, people-to-people” — had “excelled”.

India’s ties with America had improved, as had India’s ties with other countries, independently as well as together with US, the official said. “I would say, in many respects, engagement with India is some of the most desired kind of engagements on the global stage, and we have seen this with a variety of key players.”

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The two sides will keep up their steady engagement this month. Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra is in DC this week along with the new joint secretary handling the US account in the ministry of external affairs, Nagaraj Naidu, and is expected to meet the principal deputy national security advisor Jon Finer, both deputy secretaries of state, Kurt Campbell and Richard Verma, and senior Pentagon officials to review the relationship.

US NSA Jake Sullivan and NSC senior director for technology Tarun Chhabra are expected to travel to India later this month for the annual review of the initiative on critical and emerging technologies (iCET), a visit that was slated for February but got rescheduled due to Sullivan’s other global commitments.

And Campbell, who moved from being Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator at the national security council to the become the state department number two, is expected to make his first visit to India this month as well, possibly for the iCET review.

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The senior official quoted above indicated that there had been a clear shift in the attitudes on both sides. “I do believe, perhaps in the past, on both sides, there perhaps had been some ambivalence or some uncertainty. I see very little of that now. I see leaders on both sides who are all in on the promise and prospects of the other, recognise the potential of this relationship that is deeply supported by an activist diaspora community here, and technology and other firms who understand the potential of India.”

He added that the US saw its “engagement with India as central to everything” that Washington DC was seeking to do on the global stage. “And I would simply say that I think, in many respects, it will be our most important bilateral partnership heading into the latter parts of the 21st century.”



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