Washington, July 21 — Coming to India Monday on a mission to deepen what President Barack Obama has called “a defining partnership of the 21st century”, US Vice President Joe Biden has emerged as a key confidant of his one-time rival.
Since Obama offered him the vice presidency after Biden’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he has offered the president advice on all matters domestic and foreign like a true running mate.
For matters foreign, he is uniquely qualified having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as chairman or ranking member since 1997. Playing a “pivotal role in shaping US foreign policy,” Biden “has been at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia,” as the White House website puts it.
Now, as the 47th Vice President, “Biden continues to draw on his foreign policy experience, advising the President on a multitude of international issues,” it says.
Shunning the vice president’s traditional role in the shadows, Biden has been at the forefront, from helping “secure the Senate’s approval of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia,” to playing “a lead role in ending the war in Iraq responsibly”.
In support of Obama administration’s effort to rebalance its policy towards the Asia Pacific, he has travelled to China, Japan, and Mongolia and is now headed to India described by a senior administration official as “obviously a key player and increasingly so in the Asia Pacific region.”
Born November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the first of four siblings, Biden graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School and served on the New Castle County Council. Then, at age 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the US Senate.
Just weeks after the election, tragedy struck the Biden family, when Biden’s wife, Neilia, and their 1-year old daughter, Naomi, were killed and their two young sons critically injured in an auto accident.
Biden was sworn in to the US Senate at his sons’ hospital bedside and began commuting to Washington every day by train, a practice he maintained throughout his career in the Senate.
In 1977, Biden married Jill Jacobs. Jill Biden, who holds a PhD in Education, has been an educator for over two decades and currently teaches at a Washington-area community college.
Back in 2006, somewhat gaffe-prone Biden created a storm in a teacup when he remarked during his senate re-election campaign that “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”
However, the quote was taken out of context. As the then Delaware senator explained he was talking about his support among Indian-Americans. “I’ve had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India.”
That relationship endures as Biden lands in New Delhi Monday to build bridges with a strategic partner.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)