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The Trip to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Modi is His Most Important One So Far

The Trip to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Modi is His Most Important One So Far

On Thursday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a state visit to the nation’s capital that will feature a South Lawn welcome, a state supper, and an address to a joint session of Congress.

Only two other international leaders—Emmanuel Macron of France and Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea—have been honored with such a diplomatic reception from Vice President Joe Biden as Modi will soon be.

Despite Modi’s frequent trips to the United States—he was just there for three days in September 2021, during which he met with Biden—this will be the first time a visit from the Prime Minister has been classified as the highest level visit according to diplomatic protocol.

The Biden administration sees India as an important ally in the fight against China’s expanding influence in the Indo-Pacific region. India is the most populous country in the world, has one of the fastest growing economies, and is a technological and innovative powerhouse.

“The visit will strengthen our two countries’ shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific and our shared resolve to elevate our strategic technology partnership, including in defense, clean energy, and space,” the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Below, is what to know about the upcoming visit.

What Are the Top Priorities for Modi’s State Visit?

During the state visit, discussions will take place with the goal of strengthening the bilateral defense and manufacturing ties. Discussions on collaborating on the production of jet engines, long-range artillery, and military vehicles have lately taken place between Washington and New Delhi.

Without drafting a formal trade deal, India joined Vice President Biden’s 14-nation Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in May. This framework’s primary goal is to lessen China’s economic dominance through manufacturing.

To lessen reliance on Chinese production, the United States has expanded investment in a semiconductor and chip manufacturing ecosystem established in India, while American firm General Electric is exploring the possibility of co-producing military jets in the nation.

“The United States has really oriented a lot of its domestic and foreign policy around this question of, ‘how do we counter the Chinese challenge?’” says Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at Carnegie. “So if you think about semiconductors and chip manufacturing, India is a big player right now.”

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have both traveled to New Delhi in the weeks preceding up to Modi’s visit in an effort to streamline negotiations and close deals.

To aid in border surveillance and strengthen counterterrorism intelligence operations, Reuters reported this week that India was moving closer to buying more than two dozen armed drones built in the United States for $2 to $3 billion.

This new turn of events follows the recent announcement of an ambitious plan for Indo-American cooperation in a variety of high-tech fields by Sullivan and India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. These fields include semiconductors, next-generation telephony, artificial intelligence, and defense.

India’s hard power capabilities and its status as a center of innovation will both benefit from the country’s increased cooperation with the United States. According to Vaishnav, “they are hoping to get more U.S. dollars, more U.S. companies, and more U.S. entrepreneurs to make India a central part of their growth and expansion plans.”

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The United States and India Want to Compete With China, but Why?

Both countries, experts say, share a common interest in deterring an increasingly assertive and aggressive China. While the United States sees China as a growing threat in terms of spheres of influence, India is entangled in territorial disputes with China in the Himalayas after a brief war between the two countries in 1962.

An confrontation between Indian and Chinese military personnel in the northern Indian province of Ladakh reportedly resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in 2020, heightening tensions between the two countries over their shared Himalayan border.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and controversially crosses through territory in Kashmir that is under the jurisdiction of Islamabad, further heightens India’s concerns about China’s growing influence in the region.

According to Vaishnav, the United States has long-term interests in working with India to address global concerns, hence it is helping India strengthen its economy and military. “Washington is really looking to create a framework of deterrence to essentially deter Chinese expansionism, and they view India as a linchpin in this strategy,” he explains.

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How Has the Relationship Between India and the U.S. Changed?

The U.S.’s relationship with India has evolved significantly throughout time. While the United States had a closer alliance with India’s adversary, Pakistan, when it gained independence from British rule in 1947, it was more closely allied with Russia throughout the Cold War era due to U.S. skepticism and estrangement over India’s nuclear program.

Until the early 1990s, the two nations were “estranged democracies,” as described by the former U.S. Ambassador, Dennis Kux. India’s potential as a key partner in preserving the security of the Indo-Pacific region has been recognized by U.S. administrations from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump since the early 2000s, and the two countries have tried to create a strong partnership ever since.

Under the terms of a landmark nuclear agreement between India and the United States in 2005, India was effectively acknowledged as a nuclear weapons state. The United States now relies heavily on India as a result of the country’s membership in the Quad, a security alliance with Australia, Japan, and India.

In May of this year, India joined Vice President Joe Biden’s 14-nation Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which aims to lessen America’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing in exchange for mutual benefits like increased iPhone shipments from Indian-based factories and joint military exercises near the disputed Indo-China border.

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