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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Will back India against threats on border, says Biden; Harris speaks of Gandhi, pluralism

As President, “I'll continue to believe and continue what I've long called for including — standing with India and confronting the threats it faces in its own region along its borders,” Biden said.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: August 17, 2020 10:21:31 am
Joe Biden faces pressure from Left over influence industry tiesBiden referred to the spectre of “systemic racism” and the “rise of hate crimes” in the United States, and empathised with the Indian Americans who have been “targets” (File)

In a clear signal to China and Pakistan, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden on Sunday said he would stand with India in confronting the threats along its borders.

In first remarks to the Indian American community after he chose Senator Kamala Harris, who is of part Indian ancestry, to be his running mate, Biden said that being “democracies with diversity” was a “mutual strength” of India and the US.

The two countries “will have an honest conversation, but always as close friends”, he said.

Expression his faith in Harris, Biden, who was Vice-President to President Barack Obama from 2008-16, said: “Like Barack Obama asked of me, I’m asking Kamala Harris be the last person in the room, ask the tough questions of me, provide counsel, and most of all to always represent beliefs and possibilities.”

Biden described Harris as “smart, tested, prepared” for the role.

Harris, who too spoke at the virtual event organised by ‘South Asians for Biden’ in the early hours of Sunday India time, identified herself as the first Vice Presidential candidate “of South Asian descent”.

She invoked Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and India’s freedom struggle, spoke of “values like tolerance, pluralism, and diversity”, and mentioned “how much progress” India had made “in the fight for justice” in the seven decades since Independence.

Biden referred to the spectre of “systemic racism” and the “rise of hate crimes” in the United States, and empathised with the Indian Americans who have been “targets”. He described the Trump administration’s “crackdown on legal immigration” and the actions on H1B visas as “sudden and harmful”.

“While it sometimes may not feel like the America of your dreams, we will overcome and build back better than ever,” he promised.

The Democratic candidate started his message by wishing everyone on India’s Independence Day. “We (India and the US) share a special bond that I’ve seen deepened over many years as US Senator and Vice President,” he said.

Biden recalled his role in the India-US civil nuclear deal: “15 years ago, I was leading the efforts to approve the historic civil nuclear deal.” As Senators in 2008, Biden and Obama had voted in favour of the deal in Congress. Biden recalled that he had said at the time that the world would be “a safer place” if the US and India became closer friends and partners.

As President, “I’ll continue to believe and continue what I’ve long called for including — standing with India and confronting the threats it faces in its own region along its borders,” Biden said. The statement of support came as India and China remain locked in a border standoff in Ladakh for more than three months now.

Both Biden and Harris recalled Harris’s mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris in their speeches.

Biden said Chennai-born Shyamala’s immigrant story was “inspiring” and of “pure courage” — like the stories of the “sacrifices”and “family’s courage” of other Indian Americans.

Harris said her grandparents had “taught her [mother] that when you see injustice in the world, you have an obligation to do something about it”. This, she said, “inspired my mother to march and shout on the streets of Oakland, at the height of the civil rights movement, a movement whose leaders including Dr Martin Luther King Jr were themselves inspired by the non-violent activism of Mahatma Gandhi”.

She recalled visiting Madras (Chennai), and enjoying “good idlis”. She said she went on “long walks” with her grandfather, who would tell her about India’s freedom fighters, “and explain that it’s on us to pick up where they left off”. “Those lessons are a big reason why I am who I am today,” Harris said.

“Our community is bound together by so much more than our shared history and culture. The reason there is a kinship between everyone was a product of the South Asian diaspora, no matter how diverse our backgrounds may be, we also share a set of values, values forged by overcoming the colonial past, not only in one nation, but in two,” she said, referring to India and Pakistan.

Biden said that if elected, he would push for “expanding greater two-way trade” with “open markets”, and take on “big global challenges together like climate change and global health security”.

The speeches came a day after the Biden-Harris campaign issued a policy document which said the Biden administration would place “high priority” on continuing to strengthen the India-US relationship.

The document said that the Democratic candidate believes there can be no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia, cross-border or otherwise, and that the Biden administration would work with India to support a rules-based and stable Indo-Pacific region in which no country, including China, would be able to threaten its neighbours with impunity.

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