Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded the ‘Legion of Merit’ by U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday for his role in advancing the India-U.S. relationship. The award was also presented to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. India, the U.S., Japan and Australia constitute the ‘Quad’ group of countries – seen as an alternative to Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.
“President @realDonaldTrump presented the Legion of Merit to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating the U.S.-India strategic partnership,” U.S. National Security Adviser (NSA) Robert C. O’Brien wrote on Twitter.
The award was presented by Mr. O’Brien to India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who accepted it on Mr. Modi’s behalf.
Mr. Modi said on Twitter that he was “deeply honoured” to receive the award, making reference to the bipartisan support the India-US relationship enjoys. The Democratic administration of Joe Biden is set to kick off on January 20.
“It [ the award] recognises the efforts of the people of India & the US to improve bilateral ties, reflected in the bipartisan consensus in both countries about the Indo-US Strategic Partnership,” Mr Modi tweeted.
“The 21st century presents both unprecedented challenges as well as opportunities. The India-US relationship can leverage the vast potential of our people's unique strengths to provide global leadership for the benefit of entire humanity,” he wrote, reiterating the government’s “firm conviction and commitment to continue working with the US government, and all other stakeholders in both countries, for further strengthening India-US ties.”
While the India-US relationship has had its challenges under the Trump administration, such as on the trade front, the security relationship grew over the last four years and the Quad was strengthened.
Mr. Morrison was presented the award for “addressing global challenges and promoting collective security” and Mr. Abe “for his leadership and vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” as per the NSA. The awards were received by the Australian and Japanese Ambassadors in Washington DC.
The Legion of Merit, instituted in 1942 by former U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces and also members of foreign (i.e., non-U.S.) armed forces and sometimes heads of state or government. The award is presented to foreign recipients in four categories: Chief Commander, Commander, Officer and Legionnaire. Other Indians who have won the award include Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa who received the Legion of Merit (Degree: Chief Commander) in 1949 from then U.S. President Harry S. Truman.