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Washington DC gives Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu a rockstar farewell

IANS | January 26, 2024 09:53 PM

WASHINGTON: Outgoing Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, is getting a rockstar’s farewell. And the host administration is impressed.

"Elton (John) did about 340 shows for his farewell, " Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma said, recalling one of the shows that he had himself attended.

He added that he has been keeping track of Sandhu’s farewell, which could rival the British singer Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road".

Verma was speaking at -- where else? -- a farewell; hosted by the State Department for Sandhu on Thursday.

Sandhu went on to attend two more back-to-back farewells later in the evening, one of which was hosted by the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum. Its rival US-India Business Council was among the first to host a farewell for the Ambassador.

There was one farewell with the senior staff of the White House and a few that the Indian Embassy hosted for the Indian-American community.

Sandhu is leaving after four years as Ambassador to the United States.

This was his fourth stint in the US starting out as a first secretary at the Washington DC embassy in 1997. He returned to US to serve at the Indian mission to the UN and came back in 2017 to serve as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Washington DC.

Sandhu and Verma have known each from the former's first stint, when Verma was a congressional aide. Verma would go on to serve as the US ambassador to India.

Recalling their long association over the years, Verma said: "Your ability to get things done. Your ability to deliver for people is truly amazing. And so you’re not only a world class diplomat, you’re also someone who we all count as a friend."

Also recounting their long association and the arc of the India-US relationship over those years, Sandhu said: "We have actually gone through ups and downs. I mean the relationship today when we look back is definitely at a very different level. And that makes me feel very satisfied, very happy."

Sandhu's stint as Ambassador witnessed many ups, including a glitzy state visit hosted by US President Joe Biden for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2023. He also saw an India visit by the US President later in the year for the G-20 summit hosted by India.

Sandhu started his tenure as the US and, indeed the world, was beginning to come to grips with Covid-19, the world’s worst epidemic in 100 years, . The US would become the world’s worst hit and as both India and the US went under lockdown and banned incoming travel, he would oversee a major evacuation of Indians stranded in the US, mostly tourists, business people and students.

It was a complex and ambitious operation.

Health and education would become a key focus areas for Sandhu’s ambassadorship, along usual strategic and economic ties. He spoke on Thursday about feeling "passionately" about education "because my parents came here to study in this country in 1956".

They returned to India two years later, with a doctorate for his mother.

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