Defense, trade, Covid-19, climate, Afghanistan top agenda at upcoming Modi-Biden meet
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, September 22, 2021 – When President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi meet in-person at the White House on Friday, critical issues such as defense and security, trade and investments, the coronavirus pandemic, clean energy, and the situation in Afghanistan, will all be on the plate with a view to strengthen the global partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracy.
Accompanied by a high-level delegation including national security advisor Ajit Doval, external affairs minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Modi will embark on a five-day visit to the US, from September 22 to 26, during which he will attend key meetings first in Washington, DC and then New York City.
On Friday, he will participate in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) alongside Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. At the core of the Quad lies an overarching commitment by its leadership to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. The security forum is seen as a counterweight to China, a curb to its aggressive tendencies.
The Quad meet will be held on the heels of a new trilateral military pact, AUKUS, which the US has forged with the UK and Australia, again designed to take on the challenges posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region. Announcing the new grouping last week, the three member countries divulged that the US and UK will be sharing sensitive technology with Australia which will allow Canberra to acquire nuclear powered submarines.
So far, India has not voiced any misgivings about the new alliance which some see as impacting or diluting the Quad. And the White House is in defense mode reassuring its partners in the multilateral group.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, a senior administration official said, “President Biden has made elevating the Quad a priority”, noting the first virtual Quad leaders-level engagement in March, and now the upcoming in-person summit at the White House. “Hosting the leaders of the Quad fundamentally is a demonstration of the priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations designed to focus on 21st century challenges”, the official emphasized.
The summit will be preceded by a bilateral discussion between Modi and Biden, the first in-person meeting of the two leaders.
“It will be an opportunity to really go from strength to strength, from the point of view of our global partnership with India, by working together to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific by the steps that our two countries – who are both vital in the global fight against Covid-19 – can each take practically to contribute to a global solution and by taking concerted action to address the climate crisis”, the official said.
“So, in an interesting way, the bilateral discussion between the US and India will help reinforce and give momentum to the Quad discussion because many of the topics are very much interrelated”, the official noted. “The two leaders will have the opportunity to talk about the broader threat of counter-terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan and how we can work together to fight our common enemy of terrorism, as well as to talk about a range of regional issues and developments where we’ll have the opportunity to compare notes”.
“The relationship between the United States and India goes so much deeper than just a government-to-government relationship; it really is a relationship between two peoples. And I think Prime Minister Modi and President Biden really want to talk about the ways of pulling our countries even closer together at basically every level of interaction between our societies”, the official said.
On Thursday afternoon, Modi will meet Vice President Kamala Harris who traces her roots to Tamil Nadu in south India. The meeting will be held in the vice president’s ornate ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building which is located next to the West Wing of the White House.
Earlier in the day, Modi will interact with CEOs of corporate America including Tim Cook of Apple.
During the course of the visit, he will hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from other countries.
On Saturday, he will address the General Debate of the high-level segment of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The theme for this year’s debate is ‘Building Resilience through Hope’ to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, rebuild in a sustainable manner, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations.