New Delhi – US Vice President Joe Biden began his six-day maiden tour of India by paying tribute at a memorial to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of the non-violent Indian freedom struggle that culminated in India’s independence in 1947 from British rule.
“What a high honor and great privilege to be here in this sacred spot — memorializing one man who changed the world,” he wrote in the visitors’ book at Gandhi Smriti, the revered place where Gandhi’s life ended on January 30, 1948.
“My nation was changed as well by Gandhi’s teachings — when Dr. (Martin Luther) King emulated them to free not only black men and women, but all Americans,” said Biden, who was accompanied by his wife Dr Jill Biden and daughter Ashley.
King, the legendary leader of the African American civil rights movement, followed in Gandhi’s footsteps using nonviolent civil disobedience.
Biden was greeted by Gandhi’s grand-daughter, Tara Gandhi, along with Manimala, director of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti. Following the tradition, Biden took off his shoes as a sign of respect before he laid a floral wreath at Gandhi’s memorial.
According to White House officials briefing journalists in Washington, DC, Biden was expected to discuss a broad range of issues with Indian leaders, including economic growth trade, energy and climate change, security and investments.
The Obama Administration official told journalists that on July 23rd, Biden will meet with Vice President Ansari, Sushma Swaraj of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and President Pranab Mukherjee, then will attend a dinner hosted by Vice President Ansari, along with an array of Indian officials and citizens from the private sector.
On Wednesday, July 24th, the American vice president is scheduled to deliver a policy speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange and will hold a roundtable discussion with business leaders.
Elaborating on the policy speech, the official projected it will be “a speech geared not towards policymakers or government officials, but towards the people of India.”
With the increasing strategic convergence, Biden is set to define key interests and how to pursue them — maritime security and freedom of navigation, stability which can create regional integration and growth for all of the countries of the region; and strong institutions and rules of the road.
On the 25th, he’ll hold a women’s empowerment event at the India Institute of Technology (IIT Bombay) in Mumbai before departing for Singapore. Asked to comment on the IIT speech, the official said it will focus on the growing potential and promise of young women in Indian society, business, science and technology.
Moreover, Biden will take a tour of the facilities at IIT and engage in a “roundtable with young women to highlight the progress that’s been made and to champion further progress, and also to talk about the United States’ experience with the growing participation of women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields,” added the official.
Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Biden, will be participating in a health and nutrition event in the Kachhupura community in Agra, as well as touring the Taj Mahal without the vice president. While In Mumbai, she’ll be participating in a health and nutrition event in the Thane district and a gender-based violence event at DILASA in the Bhabha hospital to learn how this one-stop crisis center is using global best practices to serve victims of gender-based violence.
In Mumbai, Dr. Biden will participate in a girls education event at the Anjuman-il-Islam school for girls, stop by an English class, take a tour, and then give brief remarks at an assembly about the importance of education and the opportunities that education can provide to the young girls.