At a packed reception in his official residence, Ambassador Sandhu speaks of the “unlimited potential” in India-US ties
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, February 7, 2020 – Given the rapidly changing, often trying, times, diplomacy is on the fast track! India’s incoming ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, arrived here on Monday and presented his credentials to President Donald Trump as early as Thursday at a special ceremony held in the Oval Office. Needless to say, the experienced envoy with two previous stints at the Indian embassy in DC will hit the ground running as has been his forte!
According to a press communique released by the Indian Embassy, Trump warmly welcomed Sandhu back to Washington and wished him success in his new role as New Delhi’s top diplomat in America. The president fondly recalled his friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi fortified over several meetings.
On his part, Sandhu noted that the vision and guidance provided by the leaders of the world’s oldest and largest democracies in the last three years have propelled India and the United States towards a greater strategic convergence. He “affirmed his commitment to work towards strengthening the strategic partnership between India and the United States which is anchored in mutual trust and friendship, democratic values and people-to-people ties”, read the press statement.
At the outset, the envoy who was accompanied to the White House by his wife and peer Reenat Sandhu, currently serving as the Indian ambassador to Italy, conveyed warm greetings to the president and First Lady Melania Trump on behalf of the Indian president Ram Nath Kovind and Modi.
At the State Department, Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, was quick to welcome Sandhu back to Washington. “Extending my warmest welcome to @SandhuTaranjitS, India’s new ambassador to the US. A strong champion of US-India ties, ambassador Sandhu’s proven record and deep experience augurs well for the future of our partnership. Welcome back to Washington”, she tweeted following the credentialing ceremony.
After a fruitful tenure as India’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sandhu has taken charge of the diplomatic mission in DC. Earlier, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission (July 2013 to January 2017) and First Secretary – Political (1997 to 2000) at the Indian embassy in Washington, both positions affording an opportunity to hone his skills in advancing India-US ties. In between, he was based in New York at the Indian Permanent Mission to the United Nations (July 2005 to February 2009).
Addressing a 200-plus strong gathering of senior US administration officials, lawmakers, business leaders, educators, Indian-American community activists including a good number of Sikhs, press and media persons, at his official residence in DC, Thursday evening, Sandhu aptly remarked, “It is like coming back home”.
He noted, “Every time, I have been posted here, the time has always been challenging. And when I have left, things have really smoothed out. So, I sincerely hope that this time too, much as we read about, we hear about the challenges, I’m confident” that issues will be resolved.
“The United States and India are basically brothers in democracy”, he declared. “There will never be any problems which are so deep that two countries and two friends like the United States and India will not be able to sit across and resolve. This is based on my previous experiences here”, he told the gathering.
“That’s the relationship we have, whether it is 9/11 or 26/11 (Mumbai terror attacks), we are together”, he affirmed. “The United States and India will stand shoulder-to-shoulder and face all the problems whether it is on the terrorism front or on the Jihadi culture which is invading the world over”. In this context, he mentioned that he has just come from Sri Lanka which has faced deadly jihadi violence, the likes of which it has never seen before.
In his remarks, the ambassador dwelt on the “unlimited potential” between India and the US given that they are the largest and oldest democracies, the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., major hubs for IT companies in Silicon Valley and Bengaluru, and home to Hollywood and Bollywood. “Then certainly, the potential between the two of us is huge”, he said.
Noting that Indian-Americans have distinguished themselves in the country, Sandhu pointed out that the creme de la creme of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) as well as other institutions are based here. “And we are so happy that we could provide this creme”, he said.
Looking across at the eminent gathering, the envoy said, “We will bank on all your support and all your affection which you have for India and through that for me too. Today we are looking at what has been described as an unlimited potential between our two countries”, he noted while acknowledging, “There is so much that needs to be done”.
“When I look back at 1997, the first time I came here, and we look at today, you can see the huge gap which we have covered. But still, it’s far, far away from the potential of the two countries”, he emphasized.
The envoy came across as cautiously optimistic. What should stand him in good stead is his experience and expertise especially when it comes to navigating the corridors of power on Capitol Hill.
“I want to assure (you) that my team and me, we will do our very best”, he told guests at the reception. “That’s what we can promise. What comes out, no one can say. But, I’m confident given my earlier experiences that when we put in our best, with all your support and love, I’m sure we’ll achieve what we want to. And this relationship will go high and high”.
Striking a determined note, he said, “Both our countries, apart from strategic and other reasons, we stand together and we will”.
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