US President Joe Biden believes that America’s relationship with India is important and needs to be built, his spokesperson said, noting that the administration continues to engage with senior Indian officials on human rights issues.

“This is a president who has had decades of experience in leader-to-leader relationships. This is an important relationship as we speak about the Indo-Pacific, as we talk about how to move forward in that region,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden headed to New York.

“And so, the president believes this is an important relationship that we need to continue and build on. As it relates to human rights, as I just laid out, this is a conversation that we have with other nations around the world. The president never shies away to have that conversation with leaders,” Jean-Pierre said.

The Press Secretary was responding to a question on the White House announcement earlier in the day about the Official State visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 22.

“Are the optics problematic for the White House, with the White House giving India sort of the honour of a state visit when there are obvious human rights concerns under Prime Minister Modi and the fact that there are clear differences between the US and India when it comes to Russia and Ukraine?” she was asked.

“As we do with other nations around the world, we regularly engage with Indian government officials at senior levels on human rights concerns, including freedom of religion or belief. That is something that the president regularly does. We encourage all countries to uphold their human rights obligations, and commitments, and to work towards building inclusive societies,” Jean-Pierre said.

Earlier, she told reporters aboard Air Force One that Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an Official State Visit to the United States, which will include a state dinner, on June 22.

The upcoming visit will affirm the deep and close partnership between the United States and India and the warm bonds of family and friendship that link Americans and Indians together, she said.

“The visit will strengthen our two countries’ shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous, and secure Indo-Pacific and our shared resolve to elevate our strategic technology partnership, including in defence, clean energy, and space. The leaders will discuss ways to further expand our educational exchanges and people-to-people ties, as well as our work together to confront common challenges from climate change to workforce development and health security,” Jean-Pierre said.

Atul Keshap, the president of the US-India Business Council, said that a State Visit is a big diplomatic gesture for the United States.

“India was last honoured with a State Visit in 2009. That PM Modi is being honoured with only the third State Visit of the Biden Administration shows the respect and affection the American people have for a rising India,” he told PTI.

“It is entirely good and proper that the world’s two greatest democracies further cement their strategic, economic, and technology convergence in these turbulent geostrategic times. The State Visit will remind the world that India and America still have so much more potential to capture in our bilateral relations, reflecting the energy and talent of our demographics and our systems, which serve to empower our free peoples,” Keshap said.

“The announcement by the White House of the upcoming Official State Visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June of this year demonstrates the strategic bet that the Biden administration has placed on its partnership with India.

India is key to the security, diplomatic, and commercial architecture that the United States is building across the Indo-Pacific,” said Aparna Pande, from the Hudson Institute think-tank.

“For the Modi government also, a stronger strategic partnership with the United States is critical in boosting India’s leverage in the global arena,” Pande said.