Biden Hosts Modi on the White Home, Looking for to Bolster India Ties


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President Biden emphasised frequent floor with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India throughout a lavish state go to on Thursday, publicly skirting factors of friction over the federal government’s crackdown on human rights in India and Russia’s battle in Ukraine in hopes of bolstering financial and geopolitical ties with the world’s most populous nation.

The president handled Mr. Modi to a day of red-carpet pageantry and showered him with expansive flattery as he sought to attract India nearer at a time when the USA finds itself locked in open battle with Moscow and in an uneasy standoff with China. However even because the leaders introduced a variety of initiatives, they made no evident progress resolving the disagreements which have strained the connection in current months.

The go to’s most shocking breakthrough was a modest if notable one as Mr. Biden coaxed Mr. Modi into taking questions from reporters at a joint information convention, apparently the primary time the nationalist prime minister has finished so in his practically decade-long tenure. Challenged on his document on human rights and non secular freedom, Mr. Modi insisted that democracy is “in India’s DNA” and denied that his authorities has fostered prejudice in serving its individuals.

“Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We dwell democracy,” Mr. Modi mentioned as Mr. Biden watched within the East Room of the White Home. “In India’s democratic values, there’s completely no discrimination neither on foundation of caste, creed, or age, or any type of geographic location,” Mr. Modi added, whilst demonstrators exterior the White Home gates protested the crackdown on dissent again in India.

Whereas Mr. Biden shied away from criticism of India’s democratic backsliding, he stood by his characterization of President Xi Jinping of China as a “dictator” throughout a marketing campaign fund-raiser earlier this week. Avoiding “the info with regard to” China, he informed reporters, “is simply not one thing I’m going to vary very a lot.” However he shrugged off the protests from Beijing, saying that he nonetheless anticipated to fulfill with Mr. Xi later this yr regardless of his comment. “I don’t assume it’s had any actual consequence.”

The state go to for Mr. Modi was the latest move on the geopolitical chess board as Mr. Biden seeks extra allies towards more and more aggressive governments in Moscow and Beijing. India, which remained staunchly nonaligned in the course of the Chilly Struggle, has refused to affix the American-led coalition aiding Ukraine in its battle towards invading Russian forces. And whereas India shares a sure enmity for China, it has not totally subscribed to Washington’s technique for restraining the Asian large within the Indo-Pacific area or defending Taiwan towards aggression.

In cultivating Mr. Modi, who earlier than changing into prime minister was denied a U.S. visa due to his function in a lethal non secular riot in his residence state, Mr. Biden put apart his language about “democracy versus autocracy” being the defining wrestle of his time. In his welcome remarks and the later look earlier than reporters, Mr. Biden described the 2 international locations as fellow democracies dedicated to common values with out straight mentioning the growing suppression of minority teams and opposition voices in India.

Officers previewing the go to mentioned the president would elevate human rights points throughout his non-public conferences with Mr. Modi, however in briefing reporters they used the phrase “respectful” greater than as soon as to characterize Mr. Biden’s method. Of their moments earlier than cameras collectively on Thursday, Mr. Biden pronounced America’s partnership with India “essentially the most consequential on the planet.”

Mr. Modi supplied no indication that he had modified his thoughts about Russia or China, a lot much less about human rights at residence. Certainly, throughout an deal with to a joint session of Congress after assembly with the president, Mr. Modi prevented even utilizing the phrases “Russia” or “China,” sticking to passive formulations.

“With the Ukraine battle, battle has returned to Europe,” he mentioned, with out saying who began the battle. And he warned of “darkish clouds of coercion and confrontation” which are “casting their shadow within the Indo-Pacific” with out saying who was doing the coercing or the confronting.

Pre-empting criticism, Mr. Modi portrayed India because the “mom of democracy,” as he put it, utilizing the phrase “democracy” not less than 16 occasions in an hourlong speech. “We’re residence to all faiths on the planet and we have fun all of them,” he mentioned, with out mentioning repression of Muslims and different minorities.

Cheered on by supporters who packed the Home galleries, interrupted his speech with applause dozens of occasions and chanted “Modi! Modi!” as if it had been a marketing campaign rally, the prime minister rattled off a collection of statistics about India’s progress in recent times.

Amongst different issues, the prime minister pointedly famous that his nation has grown from the world’s tenth largest economic system when he final addressed Congress in 2016 to the fifth largest right now, nearly as if decided to pressure the USA to see India as a close to equal, not simply an rising energy, however an excellent and rising one.

Regardless of his heat greeting within the chamber, a number of liberal Democrats in Congress boycotted Mr. Modi’s speech. “A joint deal with is among the many most prestigious invites and honors the USA Congress can lengthen,” Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York wrote on Twitter. “We should always not achieve this for people with deeply troubling human rights information.”

Analysts expressed skepticism about Mr. Biden’s technique. “The benefit with which the Biden administration forged apart its dedication to supporting democracy over autocracy was breathtaking in its eagerness to please Prime Minister Modi,” mentioned Meenakshi Ahamed, writer of “A Matter of Belief,” a historical past of ties between Indian leaders and American presidents.

However she mentioned she doubted that it will do a lot good. “If the U.S. expects that it could possibly flatter Modi into safety commitments within the Indo-Pacific that may translate into army help towards China if Taiwan turns into a battle zone, the U.S. is deluding itself and has failed to know what drives Indo-U. S. relations.”

Mr. Biden celebrated India’s rise with a show of pomp and circumstance on the South Garden full with marching bands, honor guards and a 21-gun salute. He wrapped up the day of conferences with a gala state dinner, solely the third of his presidency, in a pavilion behind the White Home draped in inexperienced with saffron-colored flowers at each desk, the colours of the Indian flag. Lotus blossoms, an vital image in India, had been integrated all through the décor and pictures of the bald eagle and the peacock, the nationwide birds of the 2 international locations, had been displayed because the backdrop for the leaders’ toasts.

The White Home supplied a vegetarian meal of stuffed portobello mushrooms and creamy saffron-infused risotto in accordance with Mr. Modi’s vegetarian weight-reduction plan, with an optionally available fish entree for individuals who requested it. Joshua Bell, the Grammy-winning violinist, was tapped to carry out, together with Penn Masala, a South Asian a cappella group based by college students on the College of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Marine Band chamber orchestra.

Among the many company was Hunter Biden, the president’s son who struck an settlement with prosecutors this week to plead responsible to a pair of misdemeanor tax crimes, resolving a yearlong investigation that didn’t validate the extra sensational prices of affect peddling lodged by Republicans. Additionally included was Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who denounced the plea agreement as a sweetheart deal. The president ignored a query shouted at him in regards to the case.

India, whose inhabitants not too long ago surpassed China’s to lead the world, represents maybe a very powerful of the so-called International South nations that Mr. Biden is pursuing, each for its financial potential in addition to for its geopolitical place. And Mr. Modi, with out straight referring to that in his remarks on the arrival ceremony, nonetheless alluded to India’s rising energy, mentioning its inhabitants of 1.4 billion thrice in only a few minutes.

“I’ve lengthy believed that the connection between the USA and India shall be one of many defining relationships of the twenty first century,” Mr. Biden informed a crowd gathered on the South Garden on a dark overcast morning because the occasions received underway, “two proud nations whose love of freedom secured our independence, sure by the identical phrases in our Structure, the primary three phrases, ‘we the individuals.’”

Mr. Modi, wearing a conventional lengthy vest referred to as an achkan, thanked Mr. Biden for the distinction of a state go to and likewise instructed the 2 nations might deal with worldwide challenges in tandem. “Within the post-Covid period, the world order is taking a brand new form,” he mentioned in Hindi. “On this time interval, the friendship between India and the U.S. shall be instrumental in enhancing the energy of the entire world.”

To mark their ties, the 2 leaders rolled out an extended checklist of joint initiatives on telecommunications, semiconductors, synthetic intelligence and different areas. Mr. Modi agreed to signal the Artemis Accords, a set of ideas governing peaceable exploration of the moon, Mars and different celestial our bodies, and the 2 will announce a joint mission to the Worldwide Area Station in 2024. America and India will open further consulates in one another’s nation.

Among the many most concrete agreements highlighted on Thursday was a deal between Common Electrical and the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Restricted to fabricate in India F414 engines used to energy the Boeing F/A-18E/F Tremendous Hornet. The 2 sides additionally introduced that India would proceed with a long-stalled $3 billion buy of MQ-9B Predator drones from Common Atomics.

The army {hardware} gross sales could assist wean India off Russian arms suppliers. Biden administration officers instructed the assembly was only one step in an evolution of India’s stance on the Ukraine battle, a part of what they characterised as “bending the arc of India’s engagement.”

However Mr. Modi once more careworn the necessity for “dialogue and diplomacy,” including that “we’re utterly able to contribute in any approach we are able to to revive peace,” with out condemning Russia’s unprovoked invasion of a neighboring nation.

Mr. Biden made no effort in public to strain Mr. Modi on the matter. As a substitute, he focused on cementing bonds, pointing to the prevalence of Indian Individuals in outstanding positions in Washington. “We see it right here on the White Home the place proud Individuals of Indian heritage serve our nation daily — together with our vp of the USA, Kamala Harris,” he mentioned, turning to Ms. Harris standing off to the facet.

Ms. Harris, who will host Mr. Modi for lunch on Friday, traces her Indian background to her mom, who emigrated to the USA as a young person. Mr. Biden cited the story of “a household like so a lot of ours in our nation that speaks to the 1000’s of tales of willpower, braveness and hope.”

Damien Cave contributed reporting from Washington.


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