Modi-Biden talks to touch five broad areas of significance, says Ambassador Sandhu

Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden during their talks next week are expected to touch on five broad areas of significance –healthcare, technology, renewable energy, education and defence – which would be reflected in the joint statement, India’s envoy to the US has said.

The remarks by India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu came less than a week before Prime Minister Modi’s historic State Visit to the US.

Modi will arrive in New York on June 20 and will lead the 9th International Yoga Day celebrations at the UN headquarters on June 21.

The Indian leader will then travel to Washington DC where he will be welcomed by President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on June 22 for the State Visit, which will include an address to the joint session of the US Congress and the historic State Dinner.

“The leadership will touch five broad areas which are significant. They will be touched by the leadership, and they will be reflected in the joint statement which will come out,” Sandhu told PTI in an exclusive interview on Friday.

The visit is very significant on the substantive part.

“This time around a lot of ground is being covered,” he said.

Early this year the national security advisors of the two nations- Ajit K Doval and Jake Sullivan — launched a path-breaking initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET). Sullivan was in India this week for talks with Doval.

“Technology is going to be a significant part and you know that technology is cross-cutting. Technology is not only a commercial aspect but also has a very strong strategic side. And trust and confidence are important bases of any technology sharing or collaboration,” he said.

The five major issues to be discussed during the visit include healthcare, technology, renewable energy, education and defence.

“One is healthcare and in that affordable healthcare, affordable medicines, affordable vaccines, and of course training, research, et cetera, all will be part of it. Number two is on the technology side, it is IT, digital startup innovation. All of them are in one basket.

“Then of course we have another that is the renewable basket, which has solar as an important element of that battery technology, similarly, hydrogen. All these will be prominently there,” Sandhu said in response to a question.

On education and knowledge partnership there is a lot of movement, he said.

“In India, we have a new education policy. Of course, here I would like to mention that there are at present 200,000 Indian students (in the US). Two-thirds of them are in STEM areas. This student population … this linkage is a very important linkage. But under the new education policy now the forward movement is going to be in establishing campus-to-campus relations, intertwining of degrees, joint research, work,” Sandhu said.

He said he has personally spoken to a large number of chancellors and presidents of universities and educational institutions.

“You have already seen that this has been carried forward. It’s one of the important elements of iCET that is the education collaboration and that will be a significant path,” he said.

“Finally, not the last and the least is the defence and the strategic side. As I mentioned, high tech is an important element. It is a cross-cutting area. High tech certainly has an impact,” he said.

On the defence side, the United States is a technology powerhouse and India is an emerging technology powerhouse. So, this collaboration interaction is natural, Sandhu said.

“Earlier it was more of a buyer-seller, more of a trading relationship. Now we are looking more deeper to the next level, which is co-production and co-development collaboration between the two sides,” he said.

The relationship is now going to the next level and there are a number of aspects in the visit which are pointing towards that, Sandhu said.

“Even on the ceremonial side to have the state visit. It shows that India has a special respect here and that’s one of the underlying reasons. It’ll also provide an opportunity to both the leaders to be able to spend time together and discuss across the board a number of issues which are of mutual interest,” he said.

“You will see across the areas there is going to be much more cooperation and working together, and this will have an impact not only for the United States and India but also for many third countries,” Sandhu said.

Responding to a question on the India-US collaboration for the global common good, Sandhu said that both the leaders have a very strong comfort factor with each other and in the time, they spend, they will discuss a number of cross-cutting issues.

“But there are some areas in which collaboration is beginning and there is a great push to further it,” he said.

In the healthcare sector, he said, the United States and India can partner together. There is a vaccine called Corbevax, for example, developed by Baylor College, but bulk produced by BioE, an Indian biotechnology and biopharmaceutical company.

“Similarly in IT digital startups, there is again a lot of scope for us to be working together in third countries. Even in education and knowledge partnerships, India has a unique perspective on Africa. We have been present there for years and in so many other areas. That’s another remarkable area where the United States, India partnership can reach for global good as the Prime Minister mentions it,” Sandhu said.

The Indian diaspora, almost four million strong, again has a unique position and has played a very significant role in the India-US relationship, he said, adding it is the perfect example of how Indian Americans have been so successful in the United States today.

“Today, if we look at any field, look at education, if you go to any of the top universities or even tier two universities in the top leadership, I have always found in my interactions there are definitely in the top five there will be at least two Indian Americans,” he said.

“Similarly in the administration, in the US Congress, in the think tanks, Indian Americans have been a very successful model for many other communities here and therefore I would certainly complement their role,” said the ambassador.

They have played a significant part and they are connected with India.

“I’ll give you one example. One of the pharma establishment CEOs, actually both the couples studied here, went back to India and doing so well. Actually, they are an important bridge in healthcare cooperation between the two sides. We are very proud of them,” Sandhu said.