Amid Covid challenges, 'historic milestones' set in India-US ties: Ambassador Sandhu
India and the US have achieved some "historic milestones" in their ties, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, New Delhi's top envoy here has said.
Addressing the 5th edition of the India-US Forum on Thursday, India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said in 2021, the US administration, Congress, industry, diaspora and the American people at large came out to support India, when the COVID-19 second wave hit the country in the summer.
President Joe Biden spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, underlining that the US stands shoulder to shoulder with India, and recalled how India supported the US when the surge happened in the US last year, he said.
"The overwhelming support received by us, from all across the US is a testament to close bonds that we share. Just before the second wave hit India, India had supplied vaccines to more than 90 countries across the globe, and it was touching to see our friends, and partners such as the United States, reciprocate the warmth to India in equal measure, in the hour of need, Sandhu said.
The pandemic did not stop the two countries from going ahead with intense engagement, the envoy underlined.
"Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, there have been some historic milestones. We saw Prime Minister Modi's landmark visit to the US in September for the in-person leader-level Summit with President Biden, and the first in-person Quad Summit," Sandhu said.
This was preceded by the first ever leader-level Quad Virtual Summit in March. The joint statements issued, after each of these summits, captured the depth and breadth of this bilateral engagement, he said.
Sandhu noted that Prime Minister Modi participated in several other summits hosted by President Biden -- the virtual Leaders' Summit on Climate in April; virtual Covid Summit in September; Global Supply Chain Summit on the sidelines of G-20 in Rome in October; Summit on Build Back Better for the World on the sidelines of COP26 in Glasgow in November.
"There have been several ministerial-level engagements: the Secretary of State and the External Affairs Minister have met on a regular basis. The Secretary of Defence visited India in March as part of his first overseas tour. The Finance Minister visited the US in October. The USTR (United States Trade Representative) was recently in Delhi for the Trade Policy Forum, and the visit was an opportunity for a broader conversation on the economic partnership between the two countries, he added.
"Congressional delegations have visited India recently. The Foreign Secretary was here in September. There have been several senior official level meetings, advancing the bilateral agenda in various fields, including in defence, health, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, economic and financial partnership, financial regulation, strategic areas, etc," Sandhu said.
The envoy said the two countries launched several new projects. India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership was launched at the Climate Summit in April by Prime Minister Modi and President Biden.
"We saw the US joining the International Solar Alliance. There is also the I-2 U-2 initiative, which was launched: India-Israel; US- UAE Ministerial dialogue. We saw some new initiatives under Quad, as well in areas of space, cybersecurity, high-standards infrastructure and education," he said.
We again proved that India-US relations are people-centric and people-driven. Be it the 'Vande Bharat Mission', or support to Indian students during lockdowns, or the support for each other during Covid surges, people set the benchmark. Their aspirations remain our guide, and as governments, we make all efforts to live up to their expectations, Sandhu said.