Modi Biden
Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds discussions with a group of healthcare professionals in New York City | Pic: Twitter/Narendra Modi

Biden to bring up human rights but not lecture Modi on it: White House

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold talks with US President Joe Biden over two days starting Wednesday.

The two world leaders are expected to announce a variety of agreements related to defence cooperation and sales, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and investments in India by Micron Technology and other US companies.

PM Modi has been to the US five times since becoming prime minister in 2014, but this trip is his first with the full diplomatic status of a state visit. The White House sees the talks as a way of bolstering “one of the defining partnerships of our age,” as Washington wants India to be a strategic counterweight to China.

Also read: Modi leads historic Yoga session at UN; sets Guinness World Record

On human rights

Biden, who is under pressure by his fellow democrats to bring up human rights with PM Modi, is expected to bring up US concerns about democracy taking a backslide in India. But he will “not lecture” PM Modi on the subject, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

When the US sees challenges to press, religious or other freedoms, “we make our views known,” Sullivan said. He added, “We do so in a way where we don’t seek to lecture or assert that we don’t have challenges ourselves.”

“Ultimately, the question of where politics and the question of democratic institutions go in India is going to be determined within India by Indians. It’s not going to be determined by the United States,” Sullivan said.

Also read: PM Modi invites G20 delegates to witness ‘festival of democracy’ during 2024 LS polls

On China

Both Biden and Modi are grappling with Beijing flexing its muscle in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. “This visit is not about China. But the question of China’s role in the military domain, the technology domain, the economic domain will be on the agenda,” Sullivan said.

India has not followed the West in censuring Russia over the Ukraine war, as it is heavily reliant on Russian oil. Biden will bring up Russia and Ukraine ahead of the G20 summit later this year that will be held in India, Sullivan said.

“Across the board, I think you’ll see a combination of deep strategic discussions and practical progress, tangible progress in every single dimension of the relationship, all of it reflecting and reinforcing the fact that this, from our perspective, will be one of the defining partnerships of our age,” Sullivan said.

Also read: PM Modi’s engagements during his State visit to US

Modi’s welcome

Modi has been warmly greeted by US CEOs on this visit, and on Tuesday, he met Tesla’s Elon Musk in New York. He will visit the National Science Foundation with First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday and have a private dinner with the president at the White House on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, PM Modi will be welcomed with a colourful arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn. Biden and Modi will hold Oval Office talks and attend a state dinner in the Indian Prime Minister’s honour on Thursday night.

No joint press conference has been planned. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said work was still ongoing on this subject.

(With agency inputs)

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