Chinese President Xi Jinping is physically absent from New Delhi, but Beijing remained in the backdrop when US President Joe Biden met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday ahead of the G20 summit this weekend.
Amid escalating superpower competition between Beijing and Washington, Modi hosted Biden at his official residence shortly after he landed in the Indian capital on his first India visit since becoming president in 2021.
According to a joint statement released by the White House, the leaders pledged to sustain engagement at government, industrial and academic “high level” to contribute to a “free, open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific”.
They also reaffirmed the importance of the Quad, a strategic security dialogue including India, US, Japan and Australia that aims to counter Beijing’s influence in the region. The next Quad leaders’ summit will be hosted by India in 2024.
Both leaders also recommitted to building “resilient technology value chains and linking defence industrial ecosystems” as well as promoting policies that “facilitate greater technology sharing, co-development, and co-production opportunities”.
In 2024, the statement added, Washington and New Delhi will also collaborate on the International Space Station, 5G and 6G technology, semiconductors and diversifying critical supply chains.
During their meeting, Biden praised India’s G20 presidency and reaffirmed US support for the country’s campaign for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The statement said that Biden expressed confidence that this G20 summit would “advance the shared goals of accelerating sustainable development, bolstering multilateral cooperation, and building global consensus around inclusive economic policies to address our greatest common challenges, including fundamentally reshaping and scaling up multilateral development banks”.
However, analysts have called producing a leaders’ declaration at the end of the Group of 20 summit an insurmountable task for Modi, given members’ differences over the Ukraine war. New Delhi has not been able to produce a single joint statement after the group’s ministerial meetings in the past year.
To work toward consensus, Modi will reportedly hold bilateral talks with heads of 15 countries including France, Canada and South Korea.
After the talks, Kurt Campbell, the senior White House official for Indo-Pacific policy, described the relationship between Biden and Modi as one of “undeniable warmth and confidence”, and called the absence of both Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin “a disappointment for India”.
Campbell said that an announcement could be expected on Saturday regarding a “major breakthrough” on infrastructure and communications that would connect India with the Middle East and Europe.
According to Reuters, the US, India, Saudi Arabia as well as other nations in the Gulf and Europe have been discussing a possible rail-and-port deal to enhance trade links as a counter to China’s multibillion-dollar global infrastructure Belt and Road Initiative.