Post the first state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US, the two countries are forging much closer bilateral ties with high-level visits on all fronts, a senior Biden administration official has said, observing that India and the US have never had a stronger relationship than now.
Modi visited the US at the invitation of President Joe Biden and met him on all three days of his stay here between June 21 and June 23. On June 22, the two leaders spent time together for more than eight hours, the official said. Biden also held a private dinner for Modi on June 21. India and the United States have never had a stronger relationship than right now, the official said post-Modi visit, it has never been deeper in the memory of the president. The official said China was a major issue of discussion between the two leaders.
“In reality it (China) is not the glue of our relationship at all, but it’s one of the factors and I think we’re gonna have that glue for a long time to come,” the official, familiar with the discussions between the two leaders last month, said on condition of anonymity. Both India and the United States believe that China poses a major national security threat to them, the official said, noting that the Biden administration thinks New Delhi has been ahead of Washington in terms of handling Beijing. The Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya had a meeting with the Dalai Lama a couple of weeks ago in New Delhi, and “the Chinese kind of went nuts about that”, the official noted.
“They (Indians are) in some ways were ahead of us. It is much more existential for them in terms of countering the China threat. Whether it’s banning TikTok, whether it was building up mobile networks with no Chinese equipment, they’ve actually shown a way forward of what de-risking looks like. And that’s why I think they’re so critical,” said the official. “At the same time, they still depend on a lot of Chinese things, just like we do. China has been a real irritant in the G-20 for them…,” the official noted, giving an insight into the G-20 discussions and the balancing act that India is doing to bring all stakeholders together.
In India “Modi’s popularity is about 80 per cent in some polls, so is America’s,” the senior administration said. “That’s not just reflected at the very top which is where we usually write about or hear about. It’s, I think, underneath that at the government-to-government level business-to-business level. And then people to people,” the official said. “Vice Versa, if the bridge from India to America is a steel reinforced four-lane highway, a strong, stable bridge; I would describe in years past the bridge from America to India has been like a rope bridge with every other plank missing. Like we don’t know India and Indians anywhere near the level that India and Indians know America and Americans. I think that’s beginning to change,” said the official, referring to a large number of high-level visits to India.
There’s hardly a week or two that goes by without a major US government representative being in the country. And then on the business side, it’s like a steady stream of CEOs, he said, adding “some have better strategies than others, but everybody’s like rushing India. “It’s one of those moments where, if you rewind the clock, China 15 years ago was raising people at this pace out of poverty into the middle class. India is actually doing it a little faster than China was 15 or 20 years ago. You just look at the metrics, whether it’s the number one source of student visas now, India surpassed China last year, whether it’s the investment, which is a record level, and we’re the number one trading partner for India for the first time. And another number of other metrics,” the official said.
“This is the most significant country in many ways for them and becoming one of the most. The president said one of the most consequential relationships we have. Privately he’s expressed that this is the most important relationship that we have, at least in terms of growth and, and the future,” said the official.