India-US ties going much deeper; reflected in PM Modi, Biden equation: Indian envoy Sandhu

Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu has said that the relations between New Delhi and Washington is going “much deeper” and this was “very much reflected” in the equation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden.

Friday’s power-packed virtual meeting between the heads of government from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad — a strategic forum comprising India, Japan, Australia and the United States of America — has firmly set a “democratic diamond” around China. And even though China was not named during the 90-minute long summit, at least publicly, the joint statement followed by the strongly worded opinion article in The Washington Post has clearly underscored that Quad countries will be unrestrained from coercion.

“There are a lot of challenges right now which are international in nature like-minded countries need to come together face them and the quad was one such platform,” Sandhu said while exclusively speaking to ANI post the summit on Saturday.

Biden, the host of the meeting, was joined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. The official messaging from the Quad underplayed the security, and instead stressed on fighting COVID.

“The United States is bringing in technology. India has a vaccine production capability, and Japan is financing. And of course, Australia is coming in with logistics–there are three clear areas: health care and vaccine production; the second is IT and the third is climate change,” Sandhu said while reflecting on the cooperation between the four democracies.

The summit was Biden’s first multilateral leaders’ meeting since taking office, with the first 60 days of his administration, something that national security adviser Jake Sullivan said was “deliberate”.

It took several rounds of meetings at the Foreign Minister level before the President of the United States came forward with a proposal that a virtual summit be held of the four Quad leaders, a move that experts say that the US clearly prioritized.

The Quad summit was the first time PM Modi and Biden came face-to-face at a public event after the American President took charge in Washington in January.

“Prime Minister Modi, it’s great to see you,” Biden said while greeting the Indian leader as he welcomed him to speak at the summit.

“India-US relationship is going much deeper, and this was very much reflected in the equation between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden,” Ambassador Sandhu asserted. The top Indian envoy has been a part of the story of India-US relations and has seen it all from close quarters for decades.

When asked about President Biden and Prime Minister Modi’s equation, Sandhu recalled the Indian Prime minister’s visit to the US in 2014 and 2016 and said, “The equation between Prime Minister Modi and the then Vice President Biden was extremely good, not only at the lunch he (Biden) hosted in 2014, but also in the 2016 joint session of Congress, where, Vice President Biden had presided,” Sandhu recalled.

“Coming back to Quad again, you have to just see the public viewing of the first five minutes, and I think you can see the general atmosphere that was very good amongst all the leaders,” the envoy told ANI.

The leaders have also agreed to meet in person before the end of the year. But for now, New Delhi is expected to discuss steps to take in the Quad initiative further when US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits India after stops in Tokyo and Seoul.

“This visit is a reflection of the importance which the United States accords to India, and the origins of our bilateral relationship. Defense Secretary Austin is going to be the first senior Cabinet Minister visiting India and India looking forward to this,” Ambassador Sandhu concluded.

While reiterating its commitment to a free and secure Indo-Pacific region, leaders of the Quad countries — India, Australia, Japan and the United States — pledged to work with other countries who share the same goals and ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines are administered throughout the region till 2022.

In a jointly-authored opinion article for The Washington Post by Biden, Indian Prime Minister Modi, Australia Prime Minister Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Suga, they wrote that “the Quad,” was born in crisis. It became a diplomatic dialogue in 2007 and was reborn in 2017.

“Now, in this new age of interconnection and opportunity throughout the Indo-Pacific, we are again summoned to act together in support of a region in need,” the four leaders of Quad wrote for The Washington Post.

The Quad is a strategic forum comprising India, Japan, Australia and the United States of America, held its first-ever head of states meet virtually on Friday.

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