Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday described India and America as "natural partners" as he held the first in-person meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House during which they decided to further cement the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed global issues of common interest, including threats to democracy, Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
"India and America are natural partners. We have similar values, similar geopolitical interests," Modi said in a joint media appearance with Harris, the first-ever person of Indian origin to be elected as the vice-president of the United States.
Noting that India and the US are the largest and oldest democracies, Modi said the two countries share values and their coordination and cooperation is also gradually increasing.
This is the first meeting between the two leaders. Harris had earlier spoken with Modi over the phone in June during the COVID-19 crisis in India.
"You are the source of inspiration for so many people across the world. I am completely confident that our bilateral relationship will touch new heights under President Biden and your leadership," Modi told Harris.
The two leaders were wearing masks as they both spoke in front of a battery of pool reporters from both India and the US.
Modi invited the 56-year-old Democratic leader and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to visit India.
"Both President Biden and you assumed office at a time when our planet faced very tough challenges. In a short time you have had many achievements to your credit be it COVID-19, climate change or the Quad," Modi said.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said the two leaders exchanged views on recent global developments, including in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their commitment towards a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
The two leaders discussed the COVID-19 situation in their countries, including ongoing efforts to contain the pandemic through expedited vaccination efforts, and ensuring supply of critical medicines, therapeutics and healthcare equipment, it said.
"As relates to the Indo-Pacific, the US stresses on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Harris said, amidst China's aggressive moves in the strategically vital region.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
Harris said the world is more interconnected and more interdependent than ever before. “And the challenges that we face today have highlighted that fact. COVID-19, climate crisis and the importance of our shared belief in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.
“Both sides acknowledged the importance of collaborative action on climate change. Prime Minister spoke about India's push for increasing renewable energy and the recently launched National Hydrogen Mission. He also emphasized the importance of lifestyle changes to promote environmental sustainability,” the statement said.
Modi noted that he had the opportunity to speak to Harris after she assumed the Vice Presidency. "One of our interactions happened when India was battling a very tough wave of COVID-19 infections. I recall your kind words of solidarity that time," Modi said.
India was confronted with the second wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. A very difficult time for India, he said. “Like a family, the sense of kinship and so warmly, you extended a helping hand, the words that you chose when you spoke to me, I will always remember that, and I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” the prime minister said.