Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden met along the sidelines of the Tokyo Quad leaders’ meeting for a bilateral meeting, their second bilateral meeting in a little over a month, with the two leaders having met virtually on April 11 before the India-U.S. 2+2 Defence and Foreign Ministries dialogue. The two countries announced a technology cooperation initiative and investment initiative with the U.S. development agency. Mr. Biden, expressing an idea he has articulated for years, said he would work for the U.S.-India relationship to be “among the closest” in the world.
Speaking ahead of the bilateral dialogue, which was hosted at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s official residence in Tokyo, Mr. Modi called the India-U.S. partnership a “partnership of trust”.
“Our shared values, and our common interests in many areas, including security, have strengthened the bonds of this trust,” he said, adding that bilateral trade and investment were expanding but “much below” their potential, according to an English translation of Mr. Modi’s remarks, most of which were delivered in Hindi.
“Mr. Prime Minister, there’s so much that our countries can and will do together, and I am committed to making the U.S.-India partnership among the closest we have on Earth,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden also brought up the concept of “democracies delivering”. The President and his administration have described the world, repeatedly, as currently witnessing a battle between democracies and autocracies.
“On our video call in April, you highlighted the need for democracies to deliver. I think that’s what we’re doing today. We’re talking about how to deliver through the Quad and the U.S.-India cooperation as well,” he said to Mr. Modi during opening remarks.
The two countries signed an agreement that would allow the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to expand investment support in India for SMEs, healthcare, renewable energy and infrastructure, among other areas.
“I am sure that with the India-U.S.A. Investment Incentive Agreement between us, we will see concrete progress in the direction of investment,” Mr. Modi said at the beginning of the meeting.
India and the U.S. also launched an Initiative on Crucial Emerging Technologies (iCET), an initiative led by the two National Security Councils to cooperate on critical and emerging technologies. The Indian readout listed examples such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G/6G, biotech, semiconductors, and space.
The U.S., in its readout, said that it would join six of India’s Technology Innovation Hubs to support at least 25 joint research project this year in areas including, AI, data, health, climate and agriculture.
Significantly, Mr. Modi said that India and the U.S. “share the same perspective” on the Indo-Pacific region, a contrast to the positions on the Ukraine-Russia front. The U.S. readout said the “leaders noted with pleasure the establishment of the Indo-Pacific partnership for maritime domain awareness”.
India signing up to the Biden administration’s economic cooperation framework for the region – the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), launched on Monday — was noted positively by both sides. The Indian readout emphasised the flexible nature of the framework and its taking into account the “respective national circumstances”.
U.S. highlights Ukraine, India silent
The U.S. readout of the meeting said that Mr. Biden condemned Russia’s “unjustifiable war” and the two leaders “discussed how to cooperate to manage disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine, in particular the rise in energy and food prices, to protect their respective citizens and the world”.
The Indian readout was silent on the Russia-Ukraine war. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the two countries have sought to manage their noticeable differences on the conflict — specifically India’s purchase of energy at a discount from Russia and its refusal to condemn Russia’s aggression, including at the United Nations.
Both countries’ readouts made reference to the fact that the bilateral relationship was underpinned by democratic values. The U.S. statement also referred to “tolerance” and “equal opportunity for all citizens”.
The countries also discussed deepening the Major Defence Partnership, and they extended research collaboration via the Vaccine Acceleration Program (VAP) until 2027. The U.S. statement specified that the leaders discussed expanding cooperation to include antimicrobial resistance and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
Mr. Modi’s delegation included External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Additional Secretary Vani Rao.
Mr. Biden’s delegation included U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, DFC chief Scott Nathan, and the White House Indo Pacific lead Kurt Campbell and members of his team.
Bilateral talks with Albanese, Kishida
Mr. Modi also met with Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for separate bilaterals on Tuesday. In his conversation with Mr. Kishida, who had visited India in March 2022, the PM reaffirmed cooperation in a number of areas, including the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project being funded by Japan, for which a third loan tranche is expected soon. Mr. Modi and Mr. Kishida also spoke about fulfilling a promise to ensure five trillion Yen in public and private investment from Japan to India in the next five years.
In talks with the Australian PM, who was only sworn in on Monday after winning the general elections over the weekend, Mr. Modi invited Mr. Albanese to India. “Both leaders reviewed the multi-faceted cooperation under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, including in trade & investment, defence manufacturing, renewable energy including green hydrogen, education, science and technology, agricultural research, sports and people-to-people ties,” an MEA statement on the meeting said.
There was a general appreciation at the Quad and some of the bilateral meetings of India’s “comprehensive” response to COVID-19, according to Mr. Kwatra, who addressed the press after the meetings. The Foreign Secretary was responding to a reporter’s question on whether Mr. Biden had told Mr. Modi that India’s handling of COVID-19 has been better than China’s, according to some reports in the Indian media. The Hindu has reached out to the White House for a comment on these reports.