Modi Meets Biden in the White House: A Global Game Changer

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden hold bilateral meeting, at the Oval Office in the White House, in Washington DC on Friday. (ANI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the US President Joe Biden and leaders of three other Quad leaders will reset the global order. What is India’s grand strategy in engaging with the US as a global partner?

Our Bureau  
Washington, DC

A large number of Indian-Americans started gathering outside the White House ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival to hold a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday. These people gathered to celebrate ‘the India-US partnership’ and over 600 Indian-Americans were in the gathering. They showcased Indian culture through music and dance performances behind the White House.

The crowd looked full of enthusiasm and holding banners and the Indian flag. The locals have also prepared a pamphlet saying ‘American Welcomes Modi -2021’, which is being circulated over the social media.

The meeting between Modi and the US President was expected to set the template for further strengthening of bilateral ties. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since Biden became the US President in January this year.

When Narendra Modi met Joe Biden at the White House here on Friday for bilateral meeting, the two leaders reviewed the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership between the two countries. They also exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership between the two countries is anchored in “mutual trust, shared interests, goodwill and robust engagement of their citizens” and covers a wide gamut of areas including trade and defence.

The two countries also have strategic convergence on Indo-Pacific. Ahead of the meeting, Biden said he is looking forward to strengthening the deep ties between the two countries. “This morning I’m hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House for a bilateral meeting. I look forward to strengthening the deep ties between our two nations, working to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, and tackling everything from COVID-19 to climate change,” Biden said in a tweet.

The meeting took place in the backdrop of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the issue is likely to figure in the discussions. The frequency of high-level visits and exchanges between India and the US has gone up significantly of late. PM Modi had visited the US in 2019 and then US President Donald Trump visited India in 2020. The two countries have also held 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.

Since January, PM Modi and Biden have participated in three summits. Two of them were hosted by President Biden – the Quad virtual summit in March and the Climate Change Summit in April which was also held virtually. PM Modi also virtually took part in the G7 Summit held at Cornwall in the UK in June this year.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister held bilateral meetings with United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Prime Ministers of Australia and Japan.

Modi on Friday said the US President was taking initiatives to implement his vision for India-US relations. He also thanked Biden for the warm welcome accorded to him and his delegation at the White House. “I thank you for the warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation. Earlier, we had an opportunity to hold discussions and at that time you had laid out the vision for India-US bilateral relations. Today, you are taking initiatives to implement your vision for India-US relations,” PM Modi while interacting with the Biden.

The delegation-level talks between PM Modi and US President Biden began here at the White House on Friday. Moments before his meeting with PM Modi, Biden said he is looking forward to strengthening the deep ties between the two countries.

Since January, PM Modi and Biden have participated in three summits. Two of them were hosted by President Biden – the Quad virtual summit in March and the Climate Change Summit in April which was also held virtually.

It should be noted that regular exchange of high-level political visits has provided sustained momentum to bilateral cooperation, while the wide-ranging and ever-expanding dialogue architecture has established a long-term framework for India-US engagement.

The Quad is an inter-governmental security forum comprising India, Japan, Australia, and the US with a shared objective to support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region, that China seeks to threaten.

Also, the Quad vaccine initiative in the field of healthcare amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a glowing example of the strategic partnership.

Earlier in April this year, President Biden spoke with PM Modi on a phone call, committing that the United States and India will work closely together in the fight against COVID-19.

Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla had earlier informed that PM Modi and Biden will review “robust and multifaceted” India-US bilateral ties and will hold a discussion to bolster bilateral trade and investment ties.

Pointing out similar values and geopolitical interests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that India and the US are “natural partners” and asserted that coordination and cooperation between both countries were also increasing.

PM Modi’s remarks came in a joint press conference with US Vice President Kamala Harris ahead of the delegation-level talks. “India and America being the largest and oldest democracy are natural partners. We have similar values, geopolitical interests, and our coordination and cooperation is also increasing. Strengthening supply chain, new emerging technologies, and space, are areas of special interest to you. For me, these areas are of priority. In these areas, our cooperation is important,” he said.

PM Modi’s visit to the US is an opportunity for the two countries to develop the strategic partnership based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.

With Quad working on several initiatives including on climate change, infrastructure and new and emerging technologies, the first in-person leaders’ summit of US, India, Japan and Australia on Friday is expected to promote the forward looking-agenda to meet the requirements of Indo-Pacific region.

US President Joe Biden hosted the meeting attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. The four-nation grouping has a vision for a free, open, transparent and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Having had bilateral meetings with Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga on Thursday, Modi will have done bilaterals with the other three members of Quad before the Summit meeting.

The Prime Minister is accompanied by a high-level delegation including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla in his visit to the US. China is opposed to the Quad and has earlier termed the grouping as an “Asian NATO”.

China’s increased aggression in the South China Sea is aggravating regional tension. China’s unilateral claim on the Nine-Dash Line in the South China Sea; rapid warship building its first overseas base in Djibouti; and its surface and subsurface activities in the Indian Ocean beyond the Malacca Straits have alarmed regional countries.

The issue of China as a “very major global player” came up during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussions with his counterparts from Australia and Japan in bilateral meetings on Thursday.

A US official had said that hosting the Quad Summit 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 first-ever virtual summit of Quad leaders was held in March this year. The agenda of Quad also includes the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the Indo Pacific region and boosting maritime security.

Modi is also using the visit to develop a personal chemistry with other world leaders. On Thursday, he presented unique gifts to US Vice President Kamala Harris and the Quad leaders. In a touching gesture, Modi presented the Vice President a copy of old notifications related to her grandfather, PV Gopalan, in a wooden handicraft frame. PV Gopalan was a senior and respected government official who served in various positions. PM Modi also gifted VP Harris a Gulabi Meenakari chess set. The craft of Gulabi Meenakari is closely associated with Kashi, one of the oldest cities in the world. It is also the constituency of Modi.

Each piece on this particular chess set is remarkably handcrafted. The bright colours reflect the vibrancy of Kashi. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was gifted a Silver Gulabi Meenakari Ship. This ship is also distinctly handcrafted and bright, reflecting eternal Kashi’s dynamism. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was gifted a Sandalwood Buddha Statue. Buddhism plays a big role in bringing India and Japan together. The thoughts and ideas of Lord Buddha reverberate far and wide in Japan. This is Modi’s first visit to the US with Biden in the White House. It could be a game changer for Indo-US relations besides the global equation in the Indo-Pacific region.

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