Modi-Biden talks beyond bilateral, will look at global issues: India

Announcing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting US President Joe Biden on May 24 on the sidelines of the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo, India Saturday said that the Quad cooperation is anchored in shared values and commitment to the principles of democracy, international law and rules-based order.

This underlines Delhi’s position ahead of the summit where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific will dominate discussions between Prime Minister Modi, President Biden, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the Australian Prime Minister — polls have closed in Australia where Anthony Albanese and his Labour Party look set to defeat Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ruling coalition.

Briefing reporters, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said Modi’s conversation with Biden will not just be limited to the bilateral agenda, but also include issues of regional and global importance.

On whether the economic crisis in Sri Lanka would be part of the discussions at the Quad summit, Kwatra, without getting into specifics, said the leaders would discuss both opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

He identified several areas of cooperation and discussions at the Quad summit — climate action, sustainable infrastructure,  critical and emerging technologies, biotechnology, diversification of semiconductor supply chain, security of critical cyber infrastructure, Covid response, and post-Covid management of economy and health infrastructure which will include last-mile delivery, health security, genomic surveillance, clinical trials and pandemic preparedness.

Kwatra said the Quad would also organise a special session, on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly later this month, on promoting vaccine confidence and fighting the infodemic.

He said the “upcoming summit in Tokyo would, therefore, provide the leaders with an opportunity to take stock of the progress made thus far on Quad’s initiatives and also give guidance for the future. Developments in the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest might also come up for discussion.”

On the Modi-Biden meeting, he said, “The Prime Minister’s meeting with President Biden will mark continuation of this high-level dialogue and provide guidance and vision to take the relationship forward.”

“Quad cooperation is anchored in the shared values and commitment to the principles of democracy, international law and rules-based international order… that also has a vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”

The Quad, he said, has been working to “implement a positive and constructive agenda, with a strong focus on enabling peace, prosperity, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

On the issue of Ukraine, the Foreign Secretary said India’s position has been “amply clear” and has gained “understanding and appreciation” of key partners across the world.

India’s position, he said, has been immediate cessation of hostilities, and resolving the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.

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On whether India’s ban on wheat export would come up for discussion, Kwatra said food security is “paramount”, but wherever possible, India will meet the needs of vulnerable economies.

“The needs of food security in India are paramount for us. Yet at the same time, we have also been very careful and calibrated in ensuring that the needs of the vulnerable economy — economies that are vulnerable to the risks of food security — wherever possible, are met,” he said.

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