Prime Minister, U.S. President to discuss Afghan situation, terror.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his first visit to the U.S. in two years, with meetings with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in the morning and bilateral meetings with Vice-President Kamala Harris and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia scheduled for the afternoon.
Mr. Modi’s motorcade arrived at the Willard Intercontinental, a short distance from the White House, just before 7.30 p.m. on a wet and windy fall evening in Washington. On Thursday morning, he met with the CEOs of five companies that have invested in India or have significant investment potential: semiconductor and wireless technology manufacturer Qualcomm; renewable energy company First Solar; software company Adobe; energy systems and arms manufacturer General Atomics; and investment management company, the Blackstone Group.
Also read: Quad summit and main issues on its agenda
The main events for his DC trip, however, are Friday’s bilateral talks with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss India’s ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’, and a Quad summit with Mr. Biden, Mr. Suga and Mr. Morrison.
Mr. Modi and Mr. Biden will discuss a range of issues, including Afghanistan and counter-terrorism. They are also expected to discuss trade and climate cooperation.
In general, China, Pakistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan are expected to feature in the talks scheduled for Friday. A central theme of the Quad is to maintain “a free and open Indo Pacific”, understood to mean countering China’s growing assertiveness in the region. Subjects covered in the bilateral talks with Mr. Biden and the Quad discussions are “very much interrelated”, a senior administration official told The Hindu on a briefing call earlier this week.
The second Quad Leaders Summit (the first was a virtual summit held in March) will focus on more of what was rolled out then — a vaccine initiative to supply Asia with at least 1 billion doses manufactured in India by the end of 2022, climate cooperation, and cooperation on technology. Quad announcements on cooperation in cyberspace and on technology, climate and fighting COVID-19 are expected, according to what senior U.S. administration officials told reporters earlier this week.
The Quad meeting comes days after the U.S. announced a trilateral security partnership, AUKUS, in the Indo Pacific with the U.K. and Australia. The government has stressed that the two are not connected, with Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla saying it is not “relevant” to the Quad and would not impact its functioning. However, U.S. officials had said AUKUS would complement the work of the Quad.
Technology, energy and defence were the focus of Mr. Modi’s talks with industry heads on Thursday. Mr. Modi discussed technology, especially artificial intelligence, at the meeting with Adobe, according to Shantanu Narayen, the company’s head. Their discussion also included the “ever changing nature of media” and start-ups, he said, as well as how Adobe could be involved more with India.
Mr. Modi’s discussion with Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon included semiconductors, 5G technology, including India exporting this.
Mr. Modi will head to New York on Friday evening and address the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday morning before heading back to India. India’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccinations, counter-terrorism, and reform of the UN, are likely to come up in Mr. Modi’s UN address.
Mr. Modi will not have large diaspora events as seen on his previous visits to the U.S., as part of COVID-19 measures. However, media access to Mr. Modi has also been highly restricted, with access being given only to a few organisations, including state-owned media.