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Our goal is to be India's best friend, says Joe Biden

By Aziz Haniffa
September 22, 2015 14:22 IST
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While inaugurating the leadership summit of the US-India Business Council in Washington, DC, US Vice President Joe Biden said that there was no reason why the two largest democracies in the world should not continue to have a more productive relationship. Aziz Haniffa/ reports.

Vice President Joe Biden said that the discourse is no longer what the US can do for India but about what the two nations can do together. Photograph: Jonathan Alcorn/ Reuters

US Vice President Joe Biden, who is strongly rumoured to jump into the Democratic presidential hustings, has said that President Barack Obama’s commitment is for the US to become India’s ‘best friend,’ and that the discourse is no longer what the US can do for India but about what the two nations can do together.

Biden’s made his comments whilst kicking off the 40th anniversary and leadership summit of the US-India Business Council at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC.

“This is a propitious moment -- the US-India relationship will go a long way in defining the 21st century -- and that is not hyperbole. Our goal is to become India’s best friend. The president and I, and the entire administration, believe that the India-US relationship will go a long way in defining the 21st century,” Biden declared.

The vice president said the relationship had certainly come a long way “from the chilly days of the Cold War,” while adding that India’s non-alignment during the era was an anathema to Washington.

“There is no reason why the two largest democracies should not continue to have increasingly better and more productive relationship. The two nations should work together as strategic partners to bring about a safer and a more prosperous world,” he added.

“One of our most constructive meetings with a foreign leader was when President Obama hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House last year,” Biden stated, adding that the US administration was committed to supporting Modi’s ambitious economic and development efforts.

“We will do everything we can to support Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious economic reforms and his understanding that no nation should have to choose between prosperity and sovereignty,” Biden said,

“There is so much potential for trade and investment in both countries. Therefore, we need to see more reforms,” he noted.

Biden calling for more bilateral trade as being in the “overwhelming interest of both our countries,” warned that “there are many entrenched interests in both our counties for whom the status quo is just fine.”

“We need to stay together to counter terrorism and violent extremism,” he noted.

Biden recalled the breakthrough that was the US-India civilian nuclear deal and declared that “it went beyond the four corners of the document.”

He said, it signalled an unprecedented transformation, “challenging old orthodoxies.”

“Washington rebalancing in Asia augured well not just for the region, but for the world as a whole,” Biden said while asserting that the definitional issue of our time was climate change.

The vice president also heaped praise on the Indian-American community saying, “My God, have we benefited from the three million Indian-Americans whose talents have shaped from Silicon Valley to Main Street.”

Biden said that the story of the US and India relationship was one of a convergence of interests and made particular mention of India’s Look East and Act East policies.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was also among the slate of keynote speakers, spoke of the "natural synergy of the democracies" that is the sine qua non of US-India relations and the unique "people-to-people’ ties".

“We are both open societies which value education and enterprise. Our relationship with the United States is defined by natural synergy of our democracies and easy identification among our people,” she said.

Swaraj declared, “Today, there is a great deal of comfort, maturity and tender in conversation between both the governments. We have harnessed commonalities between our two countries to further bilateral priorities in several areas, including defence and security, countering terrorism and extremism, clean energy and environmental protection, science and technology and space.”

MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, in his swansong as the USIBC chairman, predicted, “India and the United States as they move closer to ushering in what could be a whole new era that could see global trade accelerate and increase with Indian membership in organisations like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.”

The USIBC presented its annual Global Leadership Awards to Nooyi, chair and CEO of PepsiCo, and Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson and editorial director of HT Media.

Both were honoured for their contributions and commitment to driving a more inclusive global economy and for their roles as women leaders.

Renowned Indian-American artist Natvar Bhavasr who is known for his abstract expressionism and ‘colour-field’ painting was awarded the Artistic Achievement Award. Accepting it, Bhavasr said, “I would not be the artist I am today had it not been for the inspirations that have guided me in my absorbing the gifts offered by both cultures, my birthplace India and my half a century's participation in the creative life of New York City.”

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