WASHINGTON • US Vice-President Kamala Harris has stressed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region in a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Their meeting on Thursday came as the United States is trying to solidify its pivot towards Asia and strengthen ties with allies to take on China's growing influence in the region.
The meeting assumed greater significance as the Biden administration takes steps to deepen its relationship with one of its most important allies in Asia.
"The United States, like India, feels very strongly about the pride of being a member of the Indo-Pacific, but also the fragility and importance... of those relationships, including maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific," Ms Harris told Mr Modi during the meeting.
The meeting was also a celebratory moment for the four million-strong Indian diaspora in the United States and Indians back home who take pride in Ms Harris' Indian roots and her ascent.
Mr Modi praised the Vice-President, referring to her as an "inspiration", a leader who is like "family", and called her a "real friend" who has had India's back during the Covid-19 crisis.
"The oldest democracy and the largest democracy... We are indeed natural partners, we have similar values," Mr Modi said.
During the meeting, Ms Harris also welcomed India's decision to resume exports of the Covid-19 vaccine and said both countries must work together to protect democracies around the world.
India, the world's biggest maker of Covid-19 vaccines, announced recently that it would resume vaccine exports later this year. India stopped exports in April to focus on inoculating its own population as coronavirus infections exploded.
"When India experienced the surge of Covid-19 in the country, the United States was very proud to support India in its need and responsibility to vaccinate its people, and I welcome India's announcement that it will soon be able to resume vaccine exports," Ms Harris said.
Ms Harris and Mr Modi discussed the Covid-19 pandemic, greater cooperation in technology, space and other sectors, and supply chain issues, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Mr Modi's three-day Washington trip was set to be capped by a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House yesterday. Mr Biden and Mr Modi will also hold a Quad summit with the leaders of Australia and Japan, aiming to boost cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region amid China's growing dominance in the area.
Mr Modi on Thursday also met the chief executives of Qualcomm, Blackstone, Adobe, First Solar and General Atomics, the sources said.