Discussions with the four-country Quad group, the first in-person meeting with US President Joe Biden, and interactions with top American executives will be on the itinerary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will leave for the United States on Wednesday and return on Sunday.
The full list of the American chief executive officers is being fine-tuned and will be announced on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said at a media briefing. He did not confirm whether talks on trade, including further negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), would take place during this visit.
Strengthening defence and security collaborations and boosting the clean energy partnership will be the other issues India will discuss with the US.
The centerpiece of the PM’s visit will, of course, be his first in-person meeting with Biden (whom he has met before when the latter was vice president), in which bilateral issues and the geopolitical situation in south Asia, arising from US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, could be discussed.
Equally important, judging by the time the PM will spend in engagements, will be India’s role in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – or Quad, the grouping of the US, India, Japan, and Australia – the promotion of democracy, international law and ‘freedom’ in the Indo-Pacific region, boiling down to putting speed breakers on China’s assertions.
Modi will also meet Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in separate bilateral meetings on Thursday. Shringla said along with the Quad, India will step up engagement with the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) that it sees as an integral part of managing the Indo-Pacific.
On Wednesday, the PM will hold bilateral meetings with the US, including a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris, and discuss several issues of trade with CEOs, some of whom will meet him one on one.
Issues related to India’s Personal Data Protection law, which is being drafted, localisation and cooperation on clean energy are likely to be flagged. Modi is expected to meet Biden and attend a meeting of the Quad on Friday.
On Saturday, Modi will visit New York and address the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
Replying to questions on the UK, the US, and Australia’s military relationship (AUKUS) that led to the announcement that Australia would be given a nuclear submarine, Shringla dismissed as hypothetical a question on whether India would join the grouping if asked.
He said Australia had clarified that the submarine it was being given was ‘nuclear propelled’ and as such would not violate proliferation rules because it did not involve nuclear weapons. Shringla said the Quad is not a military partnership, whereas AUKUS is. India has never joined a military alliance.
Shringla was asked why India’s own civil nuclear programme, which was also not military, was involved in long negotiations and had not really taken off. He said the issues were being discussed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and private companies that wanted to set up reactors for civil nuclear energy, but that issues of liability were involved. He was also asked about American technology for nuclear-propelled aircraft that India had been seeking for many years.
Shringla said PM Modi will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.