US President Joe Biden is looking forward to his first bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday during which they are expected to discuss a wide range of priority issues, including combating COVID-19 and climate change, economic cooperation as well as Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official.
While the two leaders have met earlier when Biden was the Vice President of the country, this is for the first time that Biden will be meeting Modi after he became the 46th president of the US in January.
After Biden’s inauguration, the two leaders have spoken over the phone multiple times and have attended a few virtual summits, including that of the Quad in March hosted by the US president.
“President Biden is looking forward to his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi in the Oval Office on Friday morning, ahead of the QUAD summit (later in the day),” said a senior administration official familiar with the preparations of the maiden Biden-Modi summit.
“We will cover a number of priority issues that India is really, front and centre…. including pandemic response, their response to climate change; we'll talk about technology issues, economic cooperation and trade as well as Afghanistan,” said the senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
After the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, India has been saying that its focus was to ensure that the war-torn country's soil is not used for terrorist activities against it.
Among the issues also include discussion about new areas of cooperation, said the official on the eve of the India-US bilateral summit.
In his departure statement on Wednesday, Modi said that during his visit, he will review the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with President Biden and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.
Ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Modi and Biden, in their meeting, are expected to focus on further bolstering bilateral trade and investment ties, strengthening defence and security collaboration and boosting the strategic clean energy partnership.
"The bilateral meeting (between Modi and Biden) will also feature the current regional security situation following recent developments in Afghanistan, our stakes as a neighbour and a longstanding and a preferred development partner of Afghanistan," he said in New Delhi on Tuesday.
"In this context, we would undoubtedly discuss the need to stem radicalism, extremism, cross-border terrorism and the dismantling of global terrorist networks," Shringla added.
Shringla said the importance of smooth post-COVID travel, especially for students, is also an important factor and is expected to be discussed at the talks.
Biden and Modi are likely to be joined by their senior officials, including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval, and India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu.
Following the bilateral summit, Biden in the afternoon would welcome Modi again at the White House for the first-ever in-person Quad summit. Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan will also attend the summit.
In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
The resource-rich Indo-Pacific region is where China has been trying to spread its influence.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.