Indian Journalist Aziz Haniffa, based in Washington, reported in India Abroad that the Trump Administration accorded, in a rare gesture, a farewell reception for India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Navtej Singh Sarna. The reception was held at the historic Blair House, the official guest house of the U.S. President. Deputy Assistant of State for South Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, hosted the reception for the Indian Ambassador and his wife Dr. Avina.
Invited to the reception were the Ambassadors of Bangladeshi and Nepal and a select group of journalists.
Ms. Wells delivered keynote remarks saying Sarna’s “tenure here has been really extraordinary”. She said on behalf of President Trump administration, she wants to express appreciation “for Sarna’s service to India but also to the cause of the U.S.-India strategic partnership.”
According to Haniffa, quoting Wells, “President Trump calls India a true friend, and Secretary (of State, Mike) Pompeo has characterized the U.S.-India bilateral relationship as one deeply bound by our shared values.”
Haniffa reported that Ms. Wells lauded Sarna’s “engagement with Americans across the country and also with the more than three million Indian Americans — the incredibly vibrant Indian diaspora of business leaders, students, technologists, artists — and you really helped to bring our peoples and countries together. Ambassador Sarna has also represented the people of India to Americans across the country”.
Wells, Haniffa stated, added, "Under your leadership in our countries have negotiated and finalized a landmark communications compatibility and security agreement, which makes our military cooperation more profound and advanced. We have also taken significant steps to build on India's status as a major U.S. defense partner, including elevating India to strategic trade authorization, tier one status, which was a hard-won fight, which is again to the benefit of our two countries.”
Wells praised Sarna: “You humble us and make us feel a little bit lesser in our own capabilities”.
Sarna, in his remarks, said the visit of Prime Minister Modi in June 2017 was the high point of his term here in Washington D.C. and observed, “The fact that the outcomes were so strong from the visit, the personal chemistry between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump was so evident and the joint statement that we came out with really set the chart for the months to follow.”
Haniffa reported that Sarna spoke of how both sides had “managed very quickly to make sure that the India-U.S. relationship not only stays on an upward moving graph, but actually sustains and succeeds in fulfilling in qualitative terms, and that’s what happened in the last two years.”
In this regard, he acknowledged, “In the India-U.S. relationship, we have found a huge amount of understanding for our political space, for our strategic autonomy, for the needs of our economy, for our role and for our taking into account our history and our regional position vis-a-vis several other countries.”