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External Affairs

US President Biden Speaks to Modi for the First Time After Inauguration

In his tweet, Modi said that the two leaders were “committed to a rules-based international order”.

New Delhi: While climate change, Myanmar and the Indo-Pacific remained on their joint agenda, US President Joe Biden has emphasised to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his “desire” was “defend democratic institutions and norms around the world”, the White House said on Tuesday.

In a tweet that announced the conversation, Modi said that they had discussed “regional issues” and agreed to “further co-operation against climate change”.

He added that the two leaders were “committed to a rules-based international order”. “We look forward to consolidating our strategic partnership to further peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond”.

The White House readout issued after two hours gave more details. It stated Biden committed to both countries working close together on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery and fight against global terrorism.

“The leaders agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad.”

The MEA statement also noted that they “reiterated the importance of working with like-minded countries to ensure a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”.

Stressing that Biden would be vocal about promoting democratic principles, the White House stated, “The President underscored his desire to defend democratic institutions and norms around the world and noted that a shared commitment to democratic values is the bedrock for the U.S.-India relationship.”

The Indian readout refers to democracy in context of both leaders having agreed “that the India-US partnership is firmly anchored in a shared commitment to democratic values and common strategic interests”.

While mentioning about global issues on the agenda, the White House singled out Myanmar, where protests have broken out after the military takeover and detention of ruling party leaders. “They further resolved that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld in Burma”.

There was, however, no specific reference to Myanmar in the Indian foreign office’s statement.

India’s readout was more expansive on the climate agenda, with Modi welcoming Biden decision to re-join the Paris agreement and talking about New Delhi’s “ambitious targets” for renewable energy. “Prime Minister welcomed President Biden’s initiative to organise the Climate Leaders Summit in April this year and looked forward to participating in the same.”

The Indian prime minister also extended an invitation to Biden and his wife to visit India “at their earliest convenience”.

The last time that they had spoken was in November, two weeks after Biden won the presidential elections.

The Indian read-out for November 17 phone call had listed that they discussed the “COVID-19 pandemic, promoting access to affordable vaccines, tackling climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region” as the main topics in the discussion.

Also read: ‘R-Day Violence Has Evoked Similar Sentiments as Capitol Hill Riots’: MEA on US Reaction

The then US President-elect’s office listed the same discussion points as the MEA readout, with two more additions – “launching the global economic recovery” and “strengthening democracy at home and abroad”.

The phone conversation takes place after the US state department had commented last week on the farmers’ protests. “We recognize that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy, and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same,” said the state department’s statement, which added that it encouraged all parties to resolve differences through dialogue.

The US statement had also acknowledged that Washington had always advocated for agriculture reforms.

Referring to reports of internet lockdown in the areas where the protestors were camping, the US state department asserted that it believes “unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy”.

The Ministry of External Affairs responded by evoking the Capitol Hill riots in which supporters of President Trump tried to stop the formal certification by US Congress of Biden’s victory by storming the chambers of Senate and House of Representatives.

“The incidents of violence and vandalism at the historic Red Fort on January 26 have evoked similar sentiments and reactions in India as did the incidents on Capitol Hill of January 6 and are being addressed as per respective local laws,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.