India and the US both are fully committed to further strengthening their strategic bilateral ties to the next level and the recent conversations between the top officials of the two countries have been very warm and forward looking, India's top diplomat here has said.
The India-US partnership has been on a steady upward trajectory in recent years, India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu told PTI in an exclusive interview.
"Going forward, both sides are fully committed to further strengthening of bilateral ties, based on our shared values and increasing convergences on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual importance," he said.
The bilateral partnership is exploring new horizons in diverse areas such as trade and economy, defence and security, energy and climate change, healthcare, science and technology, Information Technology and innovation, and people-to-people connections, he said.
"Our partnership enjoys strong bipartisan support both in the US and India. So here we are in 2021, the beginning of a new year, a new decade and we are committed to taking our ties of cooperation and friendship with the US to the next level. We look forward to strengthening our existing partnerships across diverse sectors. Yes, we have indeed done a lot together; but there is still a lot more to be done together," Sandhu said.
In the first 10 days, the Biden administration's top officials have spoken with their Indian counterparts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the few world leaders to have spoken with President Joe Biden soon after his electoral victory in November.
"Prime Minister Modi spoke to President-elect Biden on 17 November in which the two leaders reiterated their firm commitment to bilateral strategic partnership and discussed shared priorities such as COVID-19 pandemic, energy and climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region," Sandhu said.
In recent days, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval have spoken to their respective US counterparts — Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and NSA Jake Sullivan.
"These conversations have been very warm and forward looking. You would have seen the Senate confirmation hearings of Defence Secretary Austin and Secretary of State Blinken. Secretary Austin had said, 'If confirmed, my overarching objective for our defence relationship with India would be to continue elevating the partnership.
I would further operationalise India's 'Major Defence Partner' status and continue to build upon existing strong defence cooperation to ensure the US and Indian militaries can collaborate to address shared interests…'," Sandhu said.
Similarly, he noted, Secretary Blinken, during the confirmation hearing, spoke about 'the contributions made by President Biden in support of the Civil Nuclear Agreement'.
He also referred to Prime Minister Modi as "a strong advocate for renewable energy and different technologies", the Indian envoy noted.
"As discussed by Prime Minister Modi with President Biden in the congratulatory telephone call on November 17, 2020, as immediate priorities, we look forward to working with the new administration and other stakeholders around five baskets.
"Cooperation in healthcare and pharma and COVID-19 management including affordable medicines and vaccines; the digital space, including information and communication technology, innovation and start-ups; the energy sector, including Liquefied Natural Gas, renewables, solar that will allow us to combat climate change; the education and knowledge partnership and finally our cooperation in strategic and defence areas, including in the Indo-Pacific," he said.
The US Congress has always been a steadfast supporter of the partnership. The bipartisan India Caucus in the US Senate and the House of Representatives, as the largest single country Caucus, has been a strong advocate of deeper ties, he said.
"There is a clear recognition at the Capitol of the strength of our multifaceted strategic partnership and limitless potential for advancing it further at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
"President Biden has been a firm supporter of stronger ties between India and the US as a long-time senator and as the Vice President. At his Senate confirmation hearing, the US Secretary of State Blinken called the India-US relationship a 'bipartisan success'. Our relationship is embedded in democratic ethos and spirit – and we are proud of it," Sandhu said.
One of the most experienced Indian diplomats on the US affairs, Sandhu is a 1988-batch Indian Foreign Service officer. In the last one year, he has had interactions with over 100 congressmen and senators across the political aisle.
"In my interactions with the US senators and congresspersons, I have seen tremendous goodwill and bipartisan support for ties of friendship and cooperation between our two countries," he said.