Previously denied a visa, now PM ‘welcomed’ to the U.S.
Time moves uninhibited and so does history. The reluctant U.S. once refused a visa to Modi and today (June 22) it was a rapturous welcome in the White House. It is an unprecedented, historical, and transformative State visit of India’s Modi at the invitation of President Biden. To put it differently, the visit is not just a “Magical Opportunity for Democratic India (MODI)” but an equally “Momentous Occasion for Bilaterality and Indispensability (MOBI)” for the U.S. Watching Modi’s personal chemistry with Biden during this visit and in many other meetings between them led me to coin MOBI characterizing “Modi Biden.”
Having lived in the U.S. since 1978, it was a formidable honor and pride in watching Modi being greeted by Biden on the South Lawn with about seven thousand Indian diasporas chanting Modi, Vande Mataram, and Bharat Mata ki Jai. This momentous ceremony reminded me of standing in the South Lawn in 2000 with my daughter when then-President Clinton addressed the crowd on the occasion of the Million Mother’s March against guns. I was working in the White House Science Policy Office at the time. One major difference between 2000 and today was an almost complete Indianization of the South Lawn with Indian flags and the Indian diaspora taking it over. The live coverage of the event at every step on Indian media was also unimaginable and unbelievable. This shows the growing, deepening, and strengthening of India and the U.S. relationships.
Modi did not miss a beat in gratefully acknowledging his visit on behalf of 1.4 billion Indians and four million Indian diasporas. Biden characterized the visit as the “defining partnership’ of this century between the two democracies. He went on to add the friendship being strong and enduring which will unlock the future of the world. Biden made sure to mention global alliances like the QUAD, G20, and I2U2 with India as one of the critical partners.
The bilaterality of the growing relations is evident in many areas of cooperation in science, education, space, technology, energy, sustainability, defense, and other strategic areas of mutual and global importance. From all accounts, it is my informed assessment that India is becoming indispensable for the U.S. in all aspects of the economy, geopolitics, technology transfer, and defense.
One of the unusual events during the visit was a joint press conference by Biden and Modi for which only two individuals were identified to ask questions. It was unusual because Prime Minister rarely holds the press conference.
It was striking how articulated Modi’s response to a question regarding human rights abuse and erosion of certain democratic rights by a Wall Street Journal reporter. Modi answered in Hindi and retorted to the reporter, “I’m actually really surprised.” Then he went on to say that as President Biden also mentioned, both India and America, have democracy in their DNA. Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy. It was the most fitting response for someone like Modi who rarely holds press conferences.
Moving on to his next appearance at the Capitol, Modi addressed the Members of Congress in English. It was an honor not only for Modi but for the entire Indian community in India and the U.S. to have been invited to the joint session for the second time. His rare speech in English was as measured, profound, and articulate as he always does in Hindi. Modi reminded the Congress that India is not only the “biggest” but is moving “fast.” He said that India was 10th on the economy ladder when he came in 2016 and now it is the fifth largest economy. He also said with great confidence that India will be the third “soon.”
I was listening to a debate on an Indian TV channel while also engaged in Modi’s momentous visit. Not surprisingly, one of the anti-India debaters raised the issue of seventy-five legislators signing a letter sent to President Biden about India’s poor record on human rights. It is ironic that while the U.S. politicians and average Americans, who know and care about India, were celebrating and cheering Modi’s visit, Indian values, and the significant contributions by the Indian diaspora, the opposition back home was still in the dark ages. Let them be reminded that President Biden, in the star-studded State Dinner, toasted Modi’s visit by stating, “Two great Friends, Two great Nations, and Two Great Powers.”
Modi in his profound words thanked President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for the stupendous State Dinner compensating for the 2014 banquet when he was fasting for Navratri. In the joint session at the Capitol, Modi’s presence of mind was equally evident when he referred to the “Samosa Caucus,” and hoped that the flavor of Samosa will spread to the even more flavorful Indian cuisine.
The last State Visit for an Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was hosted by President Obama in 2009. It was touted as India’s growing political and economic importance to the United States and the deepening partnership between Washington and New Delhi. Fourteen years later in 2023, in my assessment, India’s importance to the United States has reached new heights of being ‘inevitable, indispensable, and more Indianized. ’ The deepening partnership is critical economically, geopolitically, and ever-growing presence of Indian influencers in political, corporate, and executive circles in addition to all other professions and businesses.
Another signature of the changing times includes the number of bilateral cooperative agreements signed, the pompous reception of Modi by Biden in the South lawn, the rare press conference by Modi, his second address in the joint session of Congress, and finally the State Dinner celebrating India’s tricolor, India’s national bird (peacock), and all vegetarian meals including Modi’s favorite millet on June 22. Modi expressed his heartful gratitude to Bidens for opening their private quarters for dinner on June 21 and for going all out to welcome him on behalf of 1.4 billion Indians and more than four million Indian diasporas in the U.S.
Modi’s State visit on June 22 will go in history as the most momentous, magical, and magnanimous event until I surely hope, he gets invited again in the near future. It was breathtaking and unprecedented how the Members of the House and Senators surrounded Modi to get his autograph and selfies with him. After this visit, let no one doubt that the deepening and trusting partnership between the world’s largest and oldest democracies will auger democracy globally. May the development, democracy, and diversity of both nations flourish and let the AI (America and India) friendship continue to deepen and widen.
Modi was as humble as humorous in every one of his public discourses. He humbly quoted ancient scriptures including his own poem. I was also surprised that Modi found time to dress differently and tastefully for all occasions- morning reception and honor in the White House, for the address at the Capitol, and the State Dinner in the evening. Personally, I felt gratified and elated when Modi attributed his visit to more than four million Indian diasporas repeatedly.
Let India’s neighbors with an evil eye be forewarned that MODI is also MOBI with M= magical and momentous, O= opportunity and occasion, D=democracy and diversity, B= bilateral and best/brightest, and I= indispensable and inevitable India. They must watch out for the dawn of ever more deepening and developing AI (America India) friendship and partnership.
Jai Bharat and Long Live AI.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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