October 2021
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International News
Camaraderie, light moments mark Biden-Modi meeting, with reference to US President's ancestor
Washington, The first in-person bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden saw some light moments and camaraderie between the two leaders, including a reference to an ancestor of the US President who worked in a tea company during the British colonial rule in India.

Welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the Oval Office in the White House, President Biden said: “I want to welcome my friend - and we've known each other for some time - back to the White House,” and added “We're going to continue to build on our strong partnership”.

Referring to the seat to his right where PM Modi was seated before the fireplace, President Biden said: “When I showed the Prime Minister to his seat, I pointed out that the seat is occupied almost every day by an Indian American. The Vice President's (Kamala Harris) mother was from India, a scientist and a remarkable woman.”

Diverting from his prepared remarks, President Biden referred to his visit to Mumbai as US Vice President. “When I was in Mumbai as vice president, I finished meeting with the equivalent of the chamber of commerce. And afterwards the Indian press asked me, do I have any relatives in India?"

At this President Biden smiled and PM Modi chuckled.

"And I said I'm not sure but, when I was elected as a 29-year-old in 1972, before I was sworn in, I got a letter from a person named Biden – last name – in Mumbai, from Mumbai,” said Biden, adding that he told the Indian press then that he had never been able to follow up on that.

"The next morning, I had a press conference going away, and the Indian press, some of these folks, said you have five Bidens in India. And although we never admitted it, I've found out that there was a Captain George Biden who was a captain in the East India Tea Company in India."

He then turned to PM Modi and quipped: "That's hard for an Irishman to admit."

Addressing the press, he said: "I shouldn't be so casual with you all. I hope you understand the humour in it."

Biden then continued: "The end result was he apparently stayed and married an Indian woman and I've never been able to track it down,” and added, “So the whole purpose of this meeting is for him (Modi) to help me figure out” – to which there was laughter from the media and officials gathered in the room.

Prime Minister Modi, in his remarks, referring to the Biden ancestor, said: “Mr. President, you have spoken in detail about the Biden surname in India, and in fact you had mentioned that to me earlier too.

“Well, after you mentioned that to me, I looked for documents. Today I have brought along a set of documents, maybe we'll be able to take this matter forward, and maybe those documents could be of use to you,” PM Modi said.

President Biden smiled and laughed.

“Was I related,” he asked.

To which PM Modi replied: “Yes”, to laughter and smiles around in the room.

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