New Delhi: 'Kemchho' from Barack Obama to 'Are we related?' from Joe Biden – the Indian Prime Minister, has come a long way in stewarding his now credited the Modi-Doctrine in India-US relationship.
"…. The seeds have been sown for an even stronger friendship between India and USA," PM Narendra Modi said in the presence of President Joe Biden just before entering delegation-level bilateral Summit.
In their first formal meeting after Biden took over as the US President, he made a strong case of a "stronger, closer and tighter" bond with India and quizzed Modi "Are we related." Not the one to be taken back, Modi also replied in affirmative "Yes" – of course jokingly.
Both the leaders had met earlier in 2014 and 2016 when Biden was the Vice President.
The jovial mood for the parleys coming on the backdrop of the Afghanistan fiasco and the Taliban takeover was kicked off by the US President himself in his opening remarks.
Biden explained he had learned about an 'Indian branch of the Biden family' when he was first elected to Congress in 1972 and received a letter from someone called Biden living in Mumbai. "I found out that there was a Captain George Biden, who was a captain in the East India tea company," Biden said. Biden said he learned that George Biden stayed in India and married an Indian woman. "But I have never been able to track it down, so the whole purpose of this meeting is for him to help me figure out who he was!"
Speaking after Biden, Modi said the US President had mentioned the connection to him previously, so he had hunted for documents that could help.
There was laughter and much jovial mood in the room, unlike normal diplomatic engagements marred by seriousness or some controversies. A few hours back, some journalists were shepherded out from the Oval Office in the White House when Biden was addressing the media with British PM Boris Johnson. Modi surprised Biden even more! "Today I have brought along some documents… Maybe those documents could be of use to you". Biden's response could be anticipated certainly. He giggled.
The Indo-US relations have grown steadily, and both sides consider each other today a key and dependable partner. And more so – the world's two great democracies have to deal with the Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Modi, as Indian PM, has handled two other US Presidents – Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
According to an insider, the Biden administration understands that the challenges of the 21st century will largely play out in the Indo-Pacific and said, "we are doubling down on our efforts".
The stronger India-US ties and the Quad will be thus part of a 'larger fabric' of engagements. The Quad will be a key and critical format, and rightly so after their meeting, Biden and Modi joined the leaders of Japan and Australia – Yoshihide Suga and Scott Morrison for the first in-person Quad Summit. For his part, in his opening remarks at the Quad, PM Modi described it as a force of 'global good'. The message could not have been clearer to China.
The 'hegemony' of Beijing in the region and the South China Sea has lately unnerved countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia.
"Today's bilateral summit is important. We are meeting at the start of the third decade of this century. Your leadership will certainly play an important role in how this decade is shaped. The seeds have been sown for an even stronger friendship between India and USA," Modi told Biden during the meeting.
Biden's reciprocal gesture was equally significant.
"We're launching a new chapter in the history of US-Indian ties and taking on some of the toughest challenges we face together," he said. Biden could not have been more candid.
It goes without stating that for the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Biden had come under attack. Lately, surveys disclosed that his popularity ratings too dropped. Even a day before, he looked tense, and this tension was reflected in the White House officials to ensure that journos are 'shepherded' from a mid-way briefing. But perhaps Biden has started a fresh and his discomfiture certainly looked less or evaporated on Friday as Modi's interaction and body language of Biden showed.
There is certainly the importance of moral and' critical support' from PM Modi, another leader much-maligned and slammed by detractors, mostly out of prejudiced notions and some well-established narratives.
Notably, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla said – "When the issue of terrorism came up, the Vice President (Kamala Harris) suo moto referred to Pakistan's role in that regard. She said that they were terror groups that were working there. She asked Pakistan to take action, so that this these groups do not impact on US security and that of India."
Thus, the Pak role in encouraging and sheltering terror elements remains an issue, but the Indo-Pacific and Quad rhetoric makes it clear that China is the real 'Dragon' (real trouble element) in the room!