Ties between India and the US are stronger and deeper than ever and there is unprecedented trust between the leaders of both nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, as he starts a landmark state visit to the US, the highest reception reserved for closes allies.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, PM Modi also said India deserves a much higher, deeper and wider profile and role on the world stage at a moment of geopolitical turmoil.
“We do not see India as supplanting any country. We see this process as India gaining its rightful position in the world,” said the Prime Minister, who left this morning for the first official state visit to the US.
He also sought to portray India as the natural leader of the Global South, giving voice to the aspirations of developing nations.
Over the next three days, PM Modi will make a rare second address to the joint session of the US Congress, meet with business leaders and Indian expats, and join President Joe Biden for a state dinner at the White House.
An unprecedented deal on jet engine technology transfer to power advanced light combat aircraft and the purchase of high-altitude armed predator drones from the US is expected during the visit.
In his interview, the Prime Minister said growing defense cooperation between the two countries was “an important pillar of our partnership” that extended to trade, technology, and energy.
He called for an overhaul of global institutions like the United Nations to make them more broadly representative in a multipolar world order. He strongly pitched for India’s membership of the UN Security Council.
“There has to be an evaluation of the current membership” of the council “and the world should be asked if it wants India to be there”, he said.
“I am the first prime minister to be born in free India, “And that’s why my thought process, my conduct, what I say and do, is inspired and influenced by my country’s attributes and traditions. I derive my strength from it.”
He added: “I present my country to the world as my country is, and myself, as I am.”
PM Modi also responded to questions about China, amid border tensions that have frequently flared up in recent years.
“For normal bilateral ties with China, peace and tranquility in the border areas is essential,” said PM Modi.
“We have a core belief in respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity, observing the rule of law and peaceful resolution of differences and disputes. At the same time, India is fully prepared and committed to protect its sovereignty and dignity,” he asserted.
He also spoke on the Ukraine war, defending India’s stance on Russia in the face of criticism.
All countries, said PM Modi, should respect international law and the sovereignty of countries. Disputes should be resolved with “diplomacy and dialogue,” not war.
“Some people say that we are neutral. But we are not neutral. We are on the side of peace,” he said.
“The world has full confidence that India’s topmost priority is peace”.
He said he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky several times.
India, he said, would do whatever it could and supported “all genuine efforts to bring an end to the conflict and ensure enduring peace and stability”.