President Joe Biden received a warm welcome in India’s capital Friday upon his arrival for a summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 major and developing economies.
“I’m happy to be here,” he appeared to say as he stepped off Air Force One, while classical Indian dancers moved to a Hindi-laced hip hop track on the New Delhi tarmac.
Biden headed straight into a private one-on-one meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Press were given limited access to the meeting, where the two reaffirmed, in a lengthy statement, "the close and enduring partnership between India and the United States.”
In the statement, the two leaders “called on their governments to continue the work of transforming the India-U.S. Strategic Partnership across all dimensions of our multifaceted global agenda, based on trust and mutual understanding.”
They also “re-emphasized that the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights, inclusion, pluralism, and equal opportunities for all citizens are critical to the success our countries enjoy and that these values strengthen our relationship.”
On Saturday, Biden and other heads of state take part in the G20 summit, where they are expected to cover issues ranging from the war in Ukraine to climate change.
When asked by VOA what Indians expected from the historic summit, many were quick to say: results.
“I really wish that we have a takeaway from the G20,” said Sabina Samad, 40, a lifelong Delhi resident, who cited climate change among her concerns. “Maybe something good for humanity.”
“Are you optimistic or pessimistic?” VOA asked.
“Both,” she said.
Inderjit Singh runs a small electronics shop founded by his father in 1961.
“The most important thing, what I feel is, trade,” he told VOA. “On the economic front we should have very, very good relations. The trade should increase so there should be economic prosperity between all the G20 nations. And ease of travel of the people – people to people contact, that is very important.”
Some Delhi residents remarked on the tight security and the capital’s unusually quiet streets.
“I love the makeover that Delhi has got. I just wonder where the dogs and the beggars have gone, but I’m sure they’re in a great place,” said Ambika Anand, 42, a social-media influencer.
As for India being taken seriously on the world stage, some noted the need for greater alignment between Washington and New Delhi.
“I think U.S. is taking India very, very seriously,” said Singh, the shop owner. “Because at the moment, I think it is geopolitical also, they have not very good relations with China. … So the only option within South Asia is India. It’s a compulsion.”
Mohini Gujral is a retiree, born in 1949, the year India and Pakistan separated. She says she’s seen many changes in her lifetime.
“Now [the U.S. is] taking India seriously,” she said. “Before I don’t think we had so much of a say in the world. That’s what I feel.”
Top U.S. officials are also attending the G20, which they say is a key forum for developed and developing nations alike.
“I think it's important to emphasize that the G20 is a prime contributor to the solution of global challenges,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “We see it as the premier organization that on a global basis is taking on critical challenges facing the global economy and particularly the ‘Global South.’”