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SOURCE: Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to US President-elect Joe Biden late on Tuesday to congratulate him on his win and reiterate India’s firm commitment to its strategic partnership with the US.

The South Block was expecting the US President-elect to talk to PM Modi on phone after he was among the first major leaders outside the American alliance system to congratulate both President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris soon after all major TV channels had placed them irrefutably ahead of the Donald Trump-Mike Pence pairing.

“Spoke to US President-elect Joe Biden on the phone to congratulate him. We reiterated our firm commitment to the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed our shared priorities and concerns – the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region,” the PM posted on social media shortly before midnight.

The PM also conveyed “warm congratulations” for Harris whose success is a matter of “great pride and inspiration for members of the vibrant Indian-American community, who are a tremendous source of strength for the Indo-US relations,” wrote Modi.

Biden thanked the PM for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership alongside the first vice president of South Asian descent.

Biden noted that he looks forward to working closely with PM Modi on “shared global challenges” with the Biden-Harris Transition Team’s readout of the phone call listing some of the priorities. They included containing Covid, tackling climate change, launching the global economic recovery, strengthening democracy at home and abroad, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

The pecking order

The scheduling of phone calls gives an idea about the US President elect’s preference of nations he will do business with. Though PM Modi congratulated Biden around the same time as others, Biden has already spoken a week back with the leaders of Germany, France and the UK; followed by conversations with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Besides Modi, Biden took part in congratulatory calls around the same time with leaders of Chile, Israel and South Africa. Significantly, Biden preferred Chile President Sebastián Piñera over Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro who is aligned with Trump’s worldview on most matters of global importance.

Biden reserved a special gesture for Israel, speaking to both its President Reuven Rivlin and PM  Benjamin Netanyahu, reiterating his support for Israel’s security and looking forward to “addressing the many challenges confronting our countries”.

With Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Biden spoke of jointly tackling corruption, containing and deepening America’s partnership with African institutions, governments and citizens.

Biden though has not spoken with other major world leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. China greeted Biden late last week while Russia has held off its congratulations till the results are officially declared.

The Biden team’s policy paper notes that, “no common global challenge can be solved without India and the US working as responsible partners”.