Modi, Biden hold first bilateral discussions

They will meet again for their first in-person Quad summit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Joe Biden at the White House on Friday in his first bilateral meeting with the U.S. President during which the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of priority issues, including combating COVID-19, climate change, economic cooperation as well as Afghanistan.

While the two leaders have met earlier when Mr. Biden was the Vice-President of the country, this is for the first time that Mr. Biden is meeting Modi after he became the 46th President of the U.S. in January.

Narendra Modi in U.S. | Live updates

Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Modi have spoken over the phone multiple times and have attended a few virtual summits, including that of the Quad in March hosted by the U.S. President. The last telephone conversation between them took place on April 26.

“This morning I’m hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House for a bilateral meeting. I look forward to strengthening the deep ties between our two nations, working to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, and tackling everything from COVID-19 to climate change,” President Biden tweeted just ahead of the meeting.

Mr. Modi, who is visiting the U.S. for the 7th time since 2014, had said his visit would be an occasion to strengthen the Indo-U.S. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and exchange views on regional and global issues.

Ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the two leaders are expected to focus on further bolstering bilateral trade and investment ties, strengthening defence and security collaboration and boosting clean energy partnership.

Following the meeting, Mr. Biden would welcome Mr. 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.

“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," Mr. Shringla added.

After the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August, 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.

Mr. 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.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Modi are likely to be joined by their senior officials, including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Shringla, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu.

The Summit provides an opportunity to take stock of the outcomes of the Quad leaders’ Virtual Summit in March this year and identify priorities for future engagements based on our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region, the administration official said.

India, the U.S. 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.

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