US President Joe Biden contrasted "India's success with China's failure" in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a closed-door session of the Quad summit in Tokyo on Tuesday, news agency PTI and ANI reported.
An unnamed senior official quoted by the two agencies said that Mr Biden praised PM Modi for handling the Covid pandemic "successfully, in a democratic manner".
He contrasted India's success with China's failure to handle the pandemic, though both countries are of comparable size, the official reportedly said.
PM Modi's success has shown the world that democracies can deliver and busted the "myth that autocracies like China and Russia can handle the rapidly changing world better because their leadership can take and implement decisions without going through lengthy democratic processes", the official was quoted as saying.
According to the official, the remarks from President Biden appeared to be unscripted, as he made a special intervention to say this before his prepared remarks.
PM Modi met Mr Biden on Tuesday shortly after the Quad Leaders' Summit in Tokyo where leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States assembled.
Asked about the reports at a news briefing in the evening by NDTV, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said, "There was a clear realisation that the countries in Quad have been able to tackle covid in their respective manner, best to their capabilities."
"But yes, there was a general appreciation of the manner in which India has been able to shape a comprehensive response, in which India has been able to manage the response including vaccination, working at the forefront," he said.
India has reported 5.24 lakh COVID-19 deaths - the most after the United States and Brazil - with more than 4.3 crore infections. Actual infections are believed to be much higher in the country of 135 crore people.
PM Modi's government has rejected the WHO estimate released earlier this month that 47 lakh people died in India as a result of the pandemic until last year, when hospitals ran out of oxygen and beds due to a record wave driven by the Delta variant.
The government was strongly criticised by the opposition for an abrupt lockdown in 2020 that left crores of poor stranded without food, shelter and income, triggering a mass exodus from cities as jobless migrant workers walked for hundreds of kilometres home, many dying on the way.