WASHINGTON (AP) — Mystery solved.
President Joe Biden sat down with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday for important talks about the Indo-Pacific region. But first, the leaders caught up on the president’s own family ties to the subcontinent.
Biden recalled that soon after he was first elected to the U.S. Senate, he got a letter from a man in Mumbai who said his last name was also Biden. The president said he never had the chance to follow up.
Later, as vice president, Biden was in India and recalled being asked by local press if he had any Indian relatives. He retold the story of the letter. The next day, Biden said, he was informed by Indian press that there were at least a few Bidens in India.
“And although we never admitted it … I’ve found out that there was a Capt. George Biden who was a captain in the East India Tea Company in India,” Biden said. He appeared to be referring to the British East India Company, a commercial power for centuries that controlled trade in colonized India and parts of southeast Asia.
Biden, who frequently talks of his Irish ancestry, quipped that the British connection was “hard for an Irishman to admit.”
Biden, who has told versions of the anecdote to Indian audiences before, said Capt. Biden “apparently stayed and married an Indian woman” but he’d never been able to nail down further details.
He joked that Modi was in Washington “to help me figure it out.”
In fact, Modi told the president that he had “hunted” for documents that would shed light on the president’s Mumbai connection, and brought his findings with him.
“Are we related?” Biden asked.
The prime minister confirmed that the 46th U.S. president did indeed have family connections to the subcontinent.
“Maybe we’ll be able to take this matter forward, and maybe those documents could be of use to you,” Modi told Biden.