Joe Biden

Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India

September 24, 2021

President Biden. Well, welcome. I want to welcome my friend—and we've known each other for some time—back to the White House. And, Mr. Prime Minister, we're going to continue to build on our strong partnership.

When I showed the Prime Minister to his seat, I pointed out that seat is occupied almost every day by an Indian American. [Laughter] The Vice President's mother was from India, a scientist and a remarkable woman.

As I think you know, Mr. Prime Minister, I've long believed that the U.S.-India relationship can help us solve an awful lot of global challenges. In fact, back in 2006, I set that hope out, where I said that by 2020—when I was Vice President—2020, India and the United States would be among the closest nations in the world with one another.

And maybe I shouldn't—these are not part of my prepared remarks. But when I was in Mumbai, as Vice President, I finished meeting with the equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce. And afterwards, the Indian press asked me: Do I have any relatives in India?

Prime Minister Modi. Yes. [Laughter]

President Biden. And I said, "I'm not sure. But when I was elected as a 29-year-old kid in 1972, before I was sworn in, I got a letter from a person named 'Biden'—last name—in Mumbai, from Mumbai." And I said, "But I never was able to follow up." The next morning I had a press conference going away, and the Indian press said—someone spoke up and said, "You have five Bidens in India." [Laughter]

And although I've never—we never admitted it, jokingly, that—I found out that there was a Captain George Biden, who was a captain in the East Indian Tea Company. That's hard for an Irishman to admit. [Laughter] I shouldn't be casual with you all because—I hope you understand the humor here.

But—and the end result was that I—he apparently stayed and married an Indian woman. And I've never been able to track it down. So the whole purpose of this meeting is for him to help me figure out who the Biden is. [Laughter]

But, all kidding aside, I think that the relationship between India and the United States—the largest democracies in the world—is destined to be stronger, closer, and tighter. And I think it can benefit the whole world.

And I think that's begun to come to pass. And today, we're launching a new chapter in the history of U.S.-Indian ties and taking on some of the toughest challenges we've faced together, starting with a shared commitment to ending the COVID pandemic.

The Prime Minister and I, we're going to be talking today about what more we can do to fight COVID-19, take on the climate challenges that the world face, and ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific, including with our own Quad partners.

Of course, our partnership is more than just what we do, it's about who we are. It's rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it's about family ties, including 4 million—4 million—Indian Americans who make the United States stronger every single day.

As the world celebrates Mahatma Gandhi's birthday next week, we're all reminded that his message of nonviolence, respect, tolerance matters today maybe more than it ever has.

And so I'm looking forward to my discussions with the Prime Minister. And thank you.

Mr. Prime Minister, the floor is yours.

Prime Minister Modi. Thank you. First of all, Mr. President, I would like to express my gratitude for this very warm welcome full of friendship not only to me, but to my delegation.

Mr. President, in 2016—and even before that, in 2014—we had an opportunity to have discussions in detail. And at that time, Mr. President, you had laid out your vision for the relations between India and the United States, and you had enunciated that in great detail. And really, that was a vision that was inspirational. And today, Mr. President, as President, you are making all efforts and taking initiatives to implement that vision, and I warmly welcome that.

Mr. President, you have talked today—spoken in detail about the Biden surname in India. And in fact, you had mentioned that to me earlier too. Well, after you mentioned it to me, I hunted for documents. And today I have brought along some documents. [Laughter]

Maybe we'll be able to take this matter forward, and maybe those documents could be of use to you.

President Biden. Are we related?

Prime Minister Modi. Yes. [Laughter]

Mr. President, I firmly believe that in our summit talks and summit meeting today, what I see is that this is the third decade of the 21st century. This is the first year of the third decade, and I see that, when I look at the entire decade, I find that under your leadership, the seeds have been sewn for the Indo-U.S. relations to expand. And for all democratic countries in the world, this is going to be a transformative period. I can see that very clearly.

And this is when I see that this transformative period is in Indo-U.S. relations. And when I talk about traditions, I'm talking about democratic traditions, democratic values, traditions to which both our countries are committed. And I find that importance of these traditions are—will only increase further.

In a similar vein, Mr. President, you mentioned the more than 4 million Indian Americans who are participating in the journey: the journey of progress of America. And when I look at the importance of this decade and the role that is going to be played by this talent of the Indian Americans, I find that this people-to-people talent will play a greater role, and Indian talent will be a full partner in this relationship. And I will—I see that your contribution is going to be very important in this.

Mr. President, in similar lines, the most important driving force in the world today will be that of technology and the technology that is going to be for the service and for the use of humanity. And I find that opportunities for this are going to be tremendous.

Similarly, Mr. President, between India and the United States, trade will continue to assume importance, and we find that the trade between our two countries are actually complementary. There are things that you have, and there are things that we have. And then, we, in fact, complement each other. And I find that, in the area of trade during this decade, that is also going to be tremendously important.

Mr. President, you just mentioned that on the 2nd of October, we will be celebrating the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. And Mahatma Gandhi always used to talk about the principle of trusteeship: trusteeship of the planet. And this decade, Mr. President, from that point of view, is also going to be important as this entire principle of trusteeship, it means that the planet that we have, we have to bequeath it to the following generations.

And this sentiment of trusteeship is going to assume more and more importance globally, but also between the relations between India and the United States. And it is these ideals that Mahatma Gandhi espoused when he talked about trusteeship of the planet and where the responsibility of global citizens is only going to go up.

Mr. President, you mentioned very important issues, and, after assuming charge as President of the United States, you have taken very unique initiatives, whether that be COVID-19, climate change, or even Quad. And in the days after that—after taking this initiative—you have made and deployed great efforts to bring them to implement your vision.

And also, today we have this opportunity to discuss all these issues in great detail, how—and after our discussions, we will look towards how we can work further together, not only for our respective countries, but for the entire world, how we can take positive action. And I am quite—I'm absolutely convinced that under your leadership, whatever we do, it will be extremely relevant for the entire world.

Once again, Mr. President, let me thank you profusely for this very warm welcome.

President Biden. Thank you.

Prime Minister Modi. Thank you.

President Biden. Thank you, everyone.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:17 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. Prime Minister Modi spoke in Hindi, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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