'You ain't seen anything yet,' EAM Jaishankar says about the India-US relationship.
Abhijit J Masih reports from the Colors of Friendship event at India House in Washington, DC.
External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar returned to India House in Washington, DC, which had been his home during his tenure as the Ambassador of India to the United States from 2013 to 2015, on Saturday, September 30, 2023, evening.
A thousand strong diaspora crowd assembled on the lawns of the Indian embassy in the upscale North West area of the capital to welcome the current architect of an improved India-US relationship at an event dubbed as the Colors of Friendship.
In his speech later, Dr Jaishankar commented that he had never seen such a massive gathering at his "previous home", like the one which was clamoring for his attention and lining up to get a selfie with him.
The special event hosted by the Indian embassy was attended by the crème de la crème of the Indian American community. Notable among them were Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Director of the US Domestic Policy Council Neera Tanden, US congressman Sri Thanedar, Director of National Drug Control Policy Dr Rahul Gupta, National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and a host of other leading Indian American guests were present not just from the capital area, but from other states as well.
The last diaspora gatherings in Washington, DC were held during Prime Minister Narendra D Modi's State visit in June. The external affairs minister had stayed in the shadows then and as a member of the large Indian delegation. Today, he held center stage.
The US Secret Service escorting him in the same meticulous and stoic manner in which they had accompanied Prime Minister Modi. The reception offered by the large Indian American crowd was somewhat similar with shouts of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' as soon as the minister got off the silver suburban.
His wife Kyoko Jaishankar, dressed in a pastel blue silk sari, walking a few steps behind him enjoying the obscurity while people jostled to get a selfie with her husband.
Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu in his welcome note referred to Dr Jaishankar as his former boss as well as his current boss referring to his stint as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington, DC twice earlier.
The Colors of Friendship, according to Ambassador Sandhu, was a combined celebration of the many festivals of India between now and December starting with Gandhi Jayanti. It was also the celebration of the India-US relationship which Dr Jaishankar in his speech termed as at an all time high.
The speeches by all the dignitaries were mostly delivered extempore and were short and highlighted the growing influence and of the Indian American community in not just business but more so now in politics.
While many thronged the tent to listen in, some made for the food stalls serving samosa chaat, vada pav, momos and much more.
Loud cheers greeted Dr Jaishankar when he took the podium. In an unusually cheerful avatar, he opened his remarks calling 2023 to be exceptional for India. "This is a different India," he said, highlighting recent accomplishments like Chandrayaan 3 landing on the dark side of the moon and the successful G20 event in India.
He shared his experience of watching the Chandrayaan landing alongside Modi at the BRICS event in South Africa. "The prime minister was following the landing and was talking to ISRO, because these are tense moments. However confident anybody is about a vision, in that period you want to have somebody around who will give you reassurance. And believe me, nobody can do reassurance better than Mr Modi," he said.
The Rajya Sabha MP, who also has the development responsibilities of the district which houses the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, mentioned the teachings of the Mahatma in his closing remarks: "The message at the end of the day was about doing the right thing, leaving no one behind."
After spending a considerable amount of time in the United States, it came as no surprise that the EAM envisions the future in a distinctly American manner: "You ain't seen anything yet."