Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed his successful Washington visit with his first in-person meeting with US President Joe Biden which went on at the Oval Office of the White House for more than 90 minutes instead of the scheduled one-hour meet. In a joint India-US statement released after the meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed that “the US and India stand together in a shared fight against global terrorism”, will take concerted action against all terrorist groups, including groups proscribed by UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee, and called for “the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks to be brought to justice”.
The two leaders “denounced any use of terrorist proxies and emphasized the importance of denying any logistical, financial or military support to terrorist groups, which could be used to launch or plan terror attacks.” During bilateral talks between Modi and Biden, counter-terrorism was a focus area, and the pernicious role played by Pakistan in Afghanistan, and the need for the international community to be cognizant of this, found resonance with the US interlocutors, said top sources accompanying the Prime Minister.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who was present during the bilateral talks, said, “Pakistan, which has been projecting itself as a facilitator (for the US in Afghanistan), has been in many senses an instigator of some of the problems that India has been dealing with in its neighbourhood.”
Shringla said, both during the Modi-Biden bilateral meeting and at the Quad summit comprising leaders of India, US, Japan and Australia, “there was a clear sense of a more careful look, examination and monitoring of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.” He did not elaborate.
At the Quad summit, Modi said, the group will act as “a force for global good”. It was announced that India will resume Covid vaccine exports from next month (October). India will make available 8 million Janssen Covid vaccine doses by October end, to be manufactured by Indian company Biological E, under the Quad vaccine initiative. India will finance 50 per cent of this first consignment.
Quad countries pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion vaccine doses globally, in addition to the doses financed through COVAX. Modi proposed a common international travelling protocol involving mutual recognition of the Covid vaccination certificate, which was well received by other leaders. Japan will work with India to enhance key investments of $100 million in the Indian healthcare sector relating to vaccines and Covid treatment drugs.
The major focus at the Modi-Biden bilateral talks and Quad summit, was on China, with the US President referring to challenges posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region. Although the Quad joint statement did not mention China by name, there was a sense of realism among Quad leaders about China’s actions and capabilities.
Already a Chinese Communist Party-backed newspaper Global Times in its editorial has warned Quad nations that it “would not hesitate to punish them” if they “followed the US too far in confronting China”. The editorial came just on the eve of the Modi-Biden meeting in the White House.
It said, “The Us intends to turn the Quad and AUKUS into sinister gangs containing China…We appeal to other regional countries not to be fooled by Washington. They should refuse to be geopolitical pawns of the US against China, or to become cannon fodders of Washington.” The tone of the editorial clearly indicates the mood in President Xi Jinping’s government. China is irked over India, Japan and Australia coming closer to the US. On the other hand, Pakistan has been badly snubbed by the US after its role in aiding and abetting the Taliban to seize power in Afghanistan has come to the notice of world powers. Prime Minister Imran Khan is yet to get an appointment with President Joe Biden.
On the other hand, as the leader of 135 crore Indians, Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House has attracted the notice of big powers across the world. Images and videos of Biden and Modi approaching each other with an intent to hug, have clearly established the tremendous hike in India’s reputation among US policymakers, hitherto unnoticed during other former Indian prime ministers’ visits to Washington.
Modi had earlier met Biden twice, in 2014 and 2016, when the latter was US Vice President, and their relationship has always been cordial. When Barack Obama was US President, Modi visited the US four times. Modi’s relationship with former US President Donald Trump has been legendary. Modi had himself mentioned in my show ‘Salaam India’ in 2019, how President Donald personally took him on a tour of the White House to give glimpses into famous moments in US history.
On Friday, Biden launched a new chapter in India-US ties and promised to take them to greater heights in the face of some of the toughest challenges being faced by both countries – The covid pandemic and the danger from China emerging as an aggressive world power. Both leaders avoided any mention of third countries, but their focuses were clear. Biden repeated an old apocryphal story about having ancestors in India, and that he had heard there were five Bidens in Mumbai. He said, “all kidding aside, relations between India and the US…are destined to be stronger and closer.”
Modi’s bilateral talks with the US President, and his participation as the oldest leader among the Quad quartet, has underlined one thing: that India continues to dominate the geopolitics of the subcontinent, and the US recognizes the need to take bilateral ties with India to a higher level. Pakistan, which had been crowing before the world that its influence has spread after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, is now facing a hard option: it has to decide which side to take – the US or China? After helping the US forces as “facilitator” for two decades in Afghanistan, the truth has now come out in the open. It is Pakistan that was keeping the entire Taliban leadership hidden under its wings, was training Taliban recruits, and fully aided and abetted the Taliban, when it took power in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal.
The US now acknowledges that India, as the world’s most populous democracy, is a major power that cannot be ignored. The credit for bringing India to the centre stage of world geopolitics goes to the untiring efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last seven years of his rule. The US has realized that India has a huge storehouse of knowledge power, required by US industry, it is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, and Indian companies are already making their presence felt across the globe. India can no more be ignored. Moreover, India provides a huge billion-plus base of consumers, ripe for US investments.
I remember, when Modi was yet to become the PM, there were questions being asked about how he would handle intricacies of diplomacy, given his background as a “chaiwallah”. Modi was projected as a leader who only knew about Gujarat. Some questioned whether Obama would give him the visa to visit the US. In the last seven years, Modi has replied to all these naysayers with full confidence.
The manner in which three consecutive US Presidents, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, welcomed Modi to the White House has made every Indian raise his head with pride. Modi has stunned world leaders with her realpolitik mixed with personal chemistry. It is nice to watch Indians living abroad praising Modi for the big stature that he has provided to an Indian prime minister.
Because of Modi’s frequent foreign visits, Indians living in those countries have gained respect in the eyes of the people of the countries they live in. Modi today stands in the front ranks of the world’s most popular statesmen. He admits that he has acquired this status because of the solid backing that he received from 135 crore Indians in his homeland.
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