US Vice President Kamala Harris meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the White House on Thursday afternoon is a “coming of age” moment for the Indian diaspora, a prominent US newspaper in her home state has said on the eve of the historic meeting between the two leaders.
Harris, 56, is the first-ever Indian American to be elected as the vice president of the United States.
Harris is scheduled to meet Modi on Thursday, making history as the highest-ranking Indian-American to welcome the leader of a country that is becoming one of America’s most important allies, The Los Angeles Times newspaper said.
This would be her first meeting with Modi, 71, whose government has not only championed the cause of the diaspora but also never been shy of speaking about their interest globally. The prime minister himself actively engages with the diaspora in all his overseas trips.
“It (Modi-Harris meeting) does represent a ‘coming of age’ moment for the diaspora, which is now more than 4 million strong,” Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the California-based newspaper.
“The meeting between the leaders comes as the Biden administration moves closer to India and other Asian and Pacific nations, continuing the Trump administration’s focus on responding to China’s growing power by building America’s economic and military ties in the region,” the daily reported.
Harris spoke to Modi over the phone on June 3. This would be their first-ever in-person meeting, for which an hour has been scheduled, sources said.
According to a White House official, Harris during the meeting would reinforce the strategic partnership between the United States and India.
“This meeting will build upon their June 3 telephone conversation addressing the COVID response. They plan to discuss democracy, human rights, climate, and global health issues,” the official had earlier told PTI.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at UC Riverside who has been tracking Indian American public opinion since 2008, told The Los Angeles Times that he believes the meeting will be watched closely by Indian-Americans who follow foreign policy.
At the same time, he noted that the meeting will not get the same level of attention in the US or India that was generated by Harris’ selection as Biden’s running mate or her swearing-in; both produced a swell of pride by Indians and Indian-Americans on Twitter and Facebook.
Harris was born to two immigrant parents — a Black father and an Indian mother. Her father, Donald Harris, was from Jamaica, and her mother Shyamala Gopalan was a cancer researcher and civil rights activist from Chennai.