G20: PM Modi Speaks to US Prez Biden About 'Disappointment' Over China, Russia Presidents' Absence

A senior US official also hinted that a major infrastructure and communications project to connect India with the Middle East and Europe will be announced soon.

New Delhi: In a meeting lasting nearly an hour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden not only assessed the present state of their bilateral relations but also heard the Indian leader express his “disappointment” regarding the absence of the Chinese and Russian presidents from the G20 summit, US officials said on September 8.

The US leader arrived in New Delhi to attend the G20 summit in the evening, with his first appointment being with the Indian PM at the latter’s official residence. 

Biden will leave Delhi on Sunday morning, before the end of the summit, to travel onwards to Vietnam.

Following the talks that lasted around 52 minutes, Kurt Campbell, Indo-Pacific coordinator on the White House National Security Council, briefed reporters there on the fact that Modi did talk about his disappointment at the absence of Russia and China.

“For our Indian partners, there is substantial disappointment that they’re not here and gratitude that we are,” he said, as per Bloomberg. There was no Indian readout released after the talks.

Campbell added that there were “undeniable opportunities here for the United States”.

“We fully intend to strengthen and deepen our relationship. We leave it to China, in particular, to discuss and explain why they’re not here,” Campbell said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin had phoned and told Modi that he would not be able to take part in the G20 summit due to the ongoing “special military operation” in Ukraine. The Chinese foreign ministry had not given any reason for President Xi Jinping to skip the summit and is sending Premier Li Qiang in his stead.

The senior US official also hinted that a major infrastructure and communications project to connect India with the Middle East and Europe will be announced soon.

When asked about whether Biden raised concerns with Modi regarding press access and human rights in India, Campbell asserted that Biden is unequivocal about matters essential for the well-being of democracy. 

Refusing to delve into specifics, Campbell said that “has determined that he wants to conduct that dialogue in a dignified, respectful way”.

According to the joint statement released after the talks, Biden congratulated Modi and ISRO scientists for the Chandrayaan-3 landing in the south pole of the moon and the launch of India’s first solar mission, Aditya-L1.

Taking the cooperation further, the two sides agreed that they “intend to increase coordination on planetary defence to protect planet Earth and space assets from the impact of asteroids and near-Earth objects, including U.S.  support for India’s participation in asteroid detection and tracking via the Minor Planet Center”.

In September 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) had successfully impacted its asteroid target on Monday and nudged its away from its path, in a successful demonstration of the technique to protect the plant from any earth-bound asteroid or comet.

Space cooperation had also been one of the achievements touted during the state visit of Modi to the United States in June, when India had signed the Artemis Accords which is US-led agreement governing peaceful uses of the moon.

Besides, both leaders reiterated that ISRO and NASA have commenced talks for mounting a joint effort to the International Space Station in 2024 and continuing efforts to finalise strategic framework for human space flight cooperation by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, they welcomed the resolution of the last outstanding dispute at the World Trade Organisation between India and United States.

According to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, India has also agreed to “reduce tariffs on certain U.S. products, including frozen turkey, frozen duck, fresh blueberries and cranberries, frozen blueberries and cranberries, dried blueberries and cranberries, and processed blueberries and cranberries”.

Meanwhile, both leaders “reaffirmed the importance of the Quad in supporting a free, open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific”.

The joint statement said the prime minister looked forward to welcoming the US President to the next Quad Leaders’ Summit to be hosted by India in 2024. While there have been feelers sent to have the three Quad leaders attend the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest, sources indicated that it was at a very preliminary stage and no invitations have been sent. 

With January 26 doubling as Australia Day, it would be difficult to persuade the Australian prime minister to be out of the country on a day of national importance. Further, Biden will also have scheduling difficulties due to the State of the Union address.

India also welcomed the US decision to co-lead the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Pillar on Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport, further to the US decision to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) in June 2023, said the joint statement.

Besides, Biden also reiterated support for India’s candidature for permanent membership for UN Security Council and “welcomed once again India’s candidature for the UNSC non-permanent seat in 2028-29”.

US President Barack Obama had first publicly reversed American policy by announcing support for India as UNSC permanent member in a speech to the Indian parliament in 2010.

Furthermore, Biden and Modi also reviewed the collaborative efforts between their two nations in various technological domains, including semiconductors, nuclear energy, 6G networks, and biotechnology.