India and the US have experienced dramatic changes in their relationship in the last two decades, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday, asserting that the bilateral ties between the two largest democracies in the world are on a roll and the challenge is how to accelerate this pace to look at a new horizon.
Mr Jaishankar arrived in Washington on Sunday night from New York after attending the annual General Assembly session of the United Nations along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, the two leaders held bilateral meetings with dozens of world leaders.
"You've really seen the last 20 years a dramatic change in this relationship. And dramatic change between big countries is not that common," the External Affairs Minister said on Tuesday at an event organised by the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum.
"When I say dramatic change, there isn't a sector today you wouldn't say that there has been a very, very high growth rate," said Mr Jaishankar.
He cited the evolution of public receptions of Indian Prime Ministers in the United States.
Referring to the historic "Howdy, Modi" event in Houston last month wherein Prime Minister Modi was joined by US President Donald Trump to address a record crowd of more than 50,000 Indian-Americans, Mr Jaishankar said "we couldn't have conceived" of such an event 10 years ago.
"Now, why did that happen? It happened in part because of the Indian-American community," Mr Jaishankar said.
When the first Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came to the US in 1949 there were 3,000 Indian-Americans. When Indira Gandhi came to the US in 1966 there were 30,000 Indian-Americans and the number jumped to 300,000 when Rajiv Gandhi came to the US in 1980s. Compared to that, there are more than three million Indian-Americans in the US and if added with resident Indians, the figure is almost double, Mr Jaishankar said.
The "Howdy, Modi" event in a sense reflects a phenomenon which is going to be the future of the world, which is a flow of talent from one geography to the other, he said.
This build up is actually indicative of some larger processes in the global economy, he said, adding it is also about those Indian-Americans being very comfortable in maintaining their ties with India, he added.
Even a gathering of Indian-Americans of that size - 50,000 - tells about the unique nature of this relationship.
"If you look at the politics of the relationship, including security and defence, we have moved to from, actually a very difficult history, sometimes actually a hostile one, to something which today the level of comfort between the Indian and American systems as it were is enormous," he said.
"There was a time I mentioned to someone where actually an Indian entering the Pentagon would be an oddity. Today, if they don't see one every hour, they kind of miss us," he said, amidst laughter from the audience.
Fifteen years ago, the Indian military had virtually no American equipment in its inventory. And today India flies American aircraft, two American helicopters, have American artillery, and have an American ship, Mr Jaishankar said.
"That's a huge change. It's not just equipment. It's whole culture and understanding which goes with all of that," the top Indian diplomat said.
"Whether it's education, whether it's talent, whether it's economy, whether it's defence, whether it's tourism, this is a relationship actually which is really on a roll."
"And the challenge for us is how do you actually keep up that pace, maybe even accelerate it, look at new horizon. Look at the future of the world, where we are going to be in that world, and how do we get the most out of the relationship, in all of this," Mr Jaishankar said.