Chai Shai Chaishai with me

Biden invites Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House for an elaborate state visit fraught with compromises.

In order to host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week for a state visit (the highest level of American diplomacy), President Joe Biden had to make some concessions.

Modi, who enjoys enormous support in India, has shown a tendency toward authoritarianism that has alarmed Western observers. Human rights organizations have accused him of discriminating against Muslims through new regulations and a crackdown on dissenters and journalists.

Biden’s approach in Asia relies heavily on Modi and India, the world’s largest democracy. The population of this country has lately overtaken that of China, making it the most populated nation on Earth. From climate change to technological progress, Biden believes that no major global concern can be solved without India’s participation. And there are few allies Biden is more eager to cultivate at this time of rising tensions between the US and China.

Officials have stated that this is why they invited Modi to pay the United States a state visit, the third such visit during Biden’s presidency.

Thus, on Thursday, the prime minister was welcomed to the White House with the highest trappings of American friendship, including a state dinner prepared by a plant-based cuisine specialist to accommodate Modi’s vegetarian diet.

Biden praised the bond between the United States and India after the spectacular welcome ceremony. He did, however, want to stress the value of having similar beliefs going ahead.

As democracies, we can better tap into the full talent of all of our people, and attract investments as true and trusted partners as leading nations, with the power of our example being our greatest export. Equal protection under the law, a free press, tolerance of different faiths, and racial and ethnic diversity are all important to us. These fundamental values, which have sustained us through each of our nations’ tumultuous pasts, are the source of our present and future success. President Joe Biden

After much back-and-forth, the two leaders have agreed to hold a joint news conference, which has been a staple of nearly every state visit over the previous two decades. According to two US officials with knowledge of the situation, Indian officials initially resisted the White House’s insistence. Since Modi doesn’t hold news conferences in India, where press freedom groups accuse him of overseeing a crackdown on reporting, this was uncharted territory for him.

Instead, Indian authorities pushed for a joint statement in which neither leader would take questions from the press. Indian officials didn’t agree to a solution until the day before Modi’s visit. Instead of the usual “two-and-two,” where each leader calls on two reporters from their press corps, they will hold a “one-and-one,” where each leader calls on one reporter from each side.

We’re just glad that Prime Minister Modi will have a press conference before leaving. When questioned about the conversations on Wednesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “We think that’s important and we’re glad that he thinks that’s important too.”

A request for comment sent to the Indian Embassy went unanswered at the time of writing.

It is the hope of national security adviser Jake Sullivan that Thursday’s state visit will help cement what he calls “one of the defining relationships of the 21st century.” Biden’s efforts to strengthen connections in a region dealing with a more aggressive Beijing will be highlighted by the meetings, which are anticipated to result in agreements on technology and defense cooperation.

The ongoing confrontation between Russia and Ukraine is also likely to be discussed, as India has not taken a firm stance on the matter. The sustained purchases of Russian oil by New Delhi have been crucial in keeping Moscow afloat in the face of crippling international sanctions.

“We are optimistic about the future of US-India relations since both nations are democracies that value individual liberty and societal fairness,” Sullivan informed the press prior to the visit.

A long view, indeed. Sullivan went on to explain that this was due to a “bet” made on the friendship between Americans and Indians. This tour will highlight and celebrate the strong bonds between the people of both countries.

Trying to win over a divisive leader

Modi is hardly the first autocratic leader to be welcomed to the White House for a state visit. In 2015, soon after he took office in Beijing, Xi Jinping met with President Obama.

It’s worth noting that Biden isn’t the first president to warm up to Modi. The Indian Prime Minister and President Trump spoke at a “Howdy Modi” gathering for the Indian diaspora in Houston. At the largest cricket stadium in the world, Modi hosted a “Namaste Trump” event in Ahmedabad.

Similar greetings have been extended by other world leaders. Modi will be the honored guest at this year’s Bastille Day parade, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

A central tenet of Biden’s foreign policy is the struggle between “democracy and autocracy,” a backdrop that is arguably nowhere more pertinent than in India.

Rahul Gandhi, the former head of India’s biggest opposition political party, was banned as a lawmaker in a judgement his supporters termed politically motivated in March, a day after he was given a two-year jail sentence for defamation.

Rights groups and opposition MPs have criticized Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its more aggressive brand of Hindu nationalist politics and its continuous crackdown on dissent.

In 2005, Modi was denied a visa to the United States because of allegations that he had incited anti-Muslim rioting while serving as chief minister of Gujarat state. The majority of the over a thousand fatalities were Muslims. In India, the Supreme Court ordered a probe that exonerated him.

Human rights organizations, MPs, and dissidents have all made it plain that they hope Biden would bring up his worries about Modi’s record while he is in Washington. This week, more than 70 Democrat lawmakers wrote to President Biden, requesting him to bring up human rights concerns with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Human rights, journalistic freedom, religious freedom, and pluralism are once again cornerstones of American foreign policy because to your leadership. Furthermore, these principles are essential for a genuine democracy to function. We must treat both friends and enemies equally in order to advance these values with legitimacy on the international stage, just as we strive to do in the United States, the lawmakers said.

Both Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) took the initiative to draft the letter. In a tweet about the letter from Jayapal, it said: “Press freedom, religious pluralism, internet availability, and the free exchange of ideas are all fundamental rights that must be protected.”

As part of his visit, Modi will deliver a speech to Congress, but three Democratic representatives have already announced they will not attend in protest of Modi’s treatment of Muslims: Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The president, according to Sullivan, plans to discuss human rights and democratic values in both formal and informal settings.

“If we see attacks on religious liberty, press freedom, or the democratic sphere, we speak out,” he asserted.

Confronting China’s Impact

An administration official has stated that on Thursday, a number of technological and defense cooperation announcements will be made as part of the state visit.

The administration official highlighted the increased defense commerce between the United States and India over the past 15 years and India’s efforts to diversify its arms suppliers away from Russia.

The official predicted that “major cancellations of defense system purchases from Russia” would occur as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. This was due in part to the fact that the Russian government was consuming its own defense manufacturing at an alarming rate. Because of Russia’s supply chain issues, international buyers of Russian equipment are understandably concerned about their ability to obtain replacement components and eventually brand-new systems.

On Thursday, the two leaders are set to announce that India has agreed to buy MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, further strengthening the military ties between their countries against the backdrop of a more bellicose China.

An official told reporters on a call Wednesday that during the state visit, Biden and Modi will celebrate the announcement of a “unprecedented… next generation defense partnership” between the two countries, in which American manufacturer GE and the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics will jointly produce F414 jet engines in India.

India is also expected to announce its participation in the international cooperative agreement for space exploration known as the Artemis Accords, a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024 with NASA, and the commitment of the American semiconductor producer Micron Technology to begin construction on a $2.75 billion new semiconductor assembly and test facility in India.

New developments on visas and diplomatic presence in each country are expected to emerge from the meetings between the two men. They will also talk about topics to be covered during the G20 meeting that India will host in September.

As both countries try to counteract China’s rising power, President Biden has been working to strengthen ties with India. The president has had multiple interactions with Modi, notably through the Quad leaders’ summits.

This week, he declared at a fundraiser that he had offended Xi by reviving the four-way partnership.

“He phoned me up and begged me not to since it would put him in a tight spot,” Biden stated about the Chinese leader. We’re merely following international regulations to keep the skies and seas clear.

Sullivan, on the other hand, said that Thursday’s meeting at the White House was “not about China,” despite the fact that “discussion topics will include China’s involvement in the military, the economy, and the technological spheres.”

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