Kamala and Modi bond: State Dept comes alive with the India-America connection | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Kamala and Modi bond: State Dept comes alive with the India-America connection

Jun 24, 2023 01:21 AM IST

Kamala Harris praised India's global impact during a lunch hosted at the State Department with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

Washington When vice president Kamala Harris’s mother came to the United States in 1958, phones weren’t easily available. And so, she wrote letters back home regularly. “Never, even for a bit, did she break the connection with India. She kept it alive. She used all means to connect her Indian and American life, despite the distance of thousands of miles,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US vice president Kamala Harris raise a toast during a State Visit Luncheon in Washington. (AP)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US vice president Kamala Harris raise a toast during a State Visit Luncheon in Washington. (AP)

With Harris standing next to him, Modi turned to her and said, “And you have given it new heights today. Your achievements are a pride for women in India and globally. You inspire them.”

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For her part, Harris, the first Indian-American, the first African-American, and the first woman to become America’s vice president and now the running mate for Joe Biden’s next election run in 2024, said that India was a “very important part of her life”.

Harris recalled that her mother, Shyama Gopalan, took her to, Madras, “as it was called then”, every few years to help them understand where she came from, what produced her, and for her children to be able to spend time with their grandparents and uncles. Harris recalled long walks with her grandfather and his fellow retired civil servant colleagues on the beach, where they discussed issues of the day, where she heard stories about the nation’s founding heroes and freedom struggle, where they spoke about fighting corruption and advancing equality for all “regardless of one’s belief or caste”.

This, Harris said, is where she learnt the idea of how to have a democracy and how to keep democracy. “The lessons I learnt from my grandfather and my mother is why I stand before you as the vice president of the United States”.

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In a finale to the official leg of his visit, Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted a lunch for Modi in the historic State Department. Blinken reminded the audience Modi had first come to the US three decades ago on a State Department exchange programme, while Modi recalled the 2014 banquet that the then vice president Joe Biden had hosted for him. At that point, Biden had spoken of the India-US partnership as a promise over the horizon. But speaking of the huge strides made in the relationship since, Modi said it was neither confined to a promise nor a horizon.

In her remarks, Harris said that in her travels and foreign policy engagements, she had seen, first hand, India’s global impact, be it in the Indo-Pacific or Africa. “India’s global engagement has not only been brought benefit for people of India, but also to people of US and the world.” She thanked Modi for his leadership in helping India emerge as a global power, reinvigorate Quad, lead G20 with a focus on climate finance, focus on international institutions and global challenges, collaborate with the US on space.

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At Modi’s table was Henry Kissinger, the 100-year-old American foreign affairs guru who has praised India for its management of foreign policy in recent weeks. Sitting next to Modi on his right was Indian-American entrepreneur, philanthropist and active supporter of the participation of the community in Democratic politics, Deepak Raj. On Modi’s left was Harris, and on her left was former PepsiCo chief Indira Nooyi. Opposite them sat external affairs minister S Jaishankar and Blinken.

If NSA Ajit Doval was seen sitting and chatting with State Department deputy secretary, Richard Varma, the highest ranking Indian-American ever in the State Department, the Indian ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti, and National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell — all of whom played an important role in shaping the visit — shared a table. Congressional leaders were present in big numbers, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Indian-American members of the House of Representatives. Mukesh and Nita Ambani were present as well.

The afternoon ended with a US Army band playing, “There ain’t’ no mountain high enough, no valley low enough to keep me away from you”. And that perhaps summed up the mood of both sides after the historic visit.

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