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India partnership bound by shared values, ideas: US dy secy of state

Oct 02, 2023 01:10 AM IST

Richard R Verma, a former ambassador to India, is the highest ranking Indian-American ever in the State Department

Washington: Richard R Verma, the US deputy Secretary of State, has said that the India-US relationship is bound by shared values and ideas, and despite “bumps” and “disagreements” on the way, the partnership between the two countries has “staying power”, real impact and will continue to have an outsized influence on the rest of the world.

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Verma, a former ambassador to India, is the highest ranking Indian-American ever in the State Department. He was speaking at a reception held in the India House, the residence of the Indian ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, to celebrate the “colors of friendship”, an event held to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi, showcase Indian diversity, honour external affairs minister S Jaishankar, recognise the diaspora’s contribution and celebrate the bilateral partnership.

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Among other top officials who attended the event were President Joe Biden’s chief domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden, the White House drug policy czar Rahul Gupta, the US surgeon general Vivek Murthy, the deputy CEO of the Development Finance Corporation Nisha Biswal, and National Science Foundation S Panchanthan. From the US Congress Shri Thanedar, Rich McCormick and Glenn Grothman participated in the celebrations.

Calling Jaishankar the “architect” of modern US-India relations, Verma said, “We would not be in this strong place we are in today but for EAM’s leadership.” While paying his tribute to the Mahatma, and recalling that his mother had spent time in Sewagram and his father’s writings were influenced by the Mahatma, Verma said that while Emerson and Thoreau inspired Gandhi, Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King. His own story, of the son of an immigrant who had both become the US ambassador to the country of his roots and now the highest ranking Indian-American official in State Department, was also a truly American and truly Indian story, Verma said.

At a time when there has been commentary about about the values based divergences between India and US — both due to American perceptions about domestic developments in India and recent Canadian allegations linking “agents” of the government of India to a possible killing in Canada — Verma said that even if some in the thinktank community rejected it, the fact was that the US-India relationship was built on shared values, including a commitment to democracy. “The US and India value system advocates for fairness and justice for all peoples. These values are the glue that holds our countries together.”

Verma acknowledged that there will be interruptions along the way, “Do we have disagreements? You bet. Will we have bumps in the road? Of course.” But he added that this was also a partnership between two close friends, bound by the values of the Mahatma and King, and solidified by the sacrifices of many others. “This is a partnership with staying power, with real impact and that will continue to have an outside influence in the world.”

Thanedar, a first time US Congressional representative from Detroit, spoke about his own roots in Belagum and how he was the first Marathi-speaker and Kannada-speaker in the US Congress. Announcing that he had just set up the first caucus for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians in the Congress, Thanedar said the caucus won’t tolerate “hate and bigotry” and won’t tolerate an attitudes that saw Indian lives as of low worth and value. He also recalled PM Narendra Modi’s address to the US Congress as a “fabulous” one in showing that India was a force to be reckoned with.

Tanden, the highest ranking Indian-American official in Biden’s team, spoke of the tremendous rise of the diaspora in the administration and pointed to Verma, her own role, Vinay Reddy who is Biden’s chief speechwriter, and Aarti Prabhakar, Biden’s science advisor among others. “You can’t throw a stone in White House and not hit an Indian American.”

Murthy, the US surgeon general, said his mother had sent him video of the landing of the Chandrayaan, and how his family had left India years ago, but didn’t leave India behind but retained its values, culture, traditions. He also spoke of the potential for India-US partnership in the domain of health, including addressing mental health.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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