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Modi-Biden Virtual Meet to Set Tone for First 2+2 Under New US Administration in Washington DC​

By: Maha Siddiqui

CNN-News18

Last Updated: April 11, 2022, 15:35 IST

Washington DC

Since the dates for the 2+2 were decided, conversations were on between the two sides to arrange the Modi-Biden virtual meeting. (Twitter File Photo)

Since the dates for the 2+2 were decided, conversations were on between the two sides to arrange the Modi-Biden virtual meeting. (Twitter File Photo)

Both the sides are viewing the virtual interaction between Modi and Biden as a sign for their ministers to deal with the issues expected to be taken up in the 2+2 meeting

Monday’s virtual interaction between United States President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will set the tone for the India-US 2+2 meeting, the first under the Biden administration, three hours later in the US State Department Building in Washington DC.

To be attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the 2+2 meeting comes in the critical backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war and India’s resistance of the heightened pressure from the West to weigh in on its side.

THE BIG MEETING

Just a day ahead of the 2+2, came the big announcement of a virtual meeting between PM Modi and President Joe Biden.

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Since the dates for the 2+2 were decided, conversations were on between the two sides to arrange the Biden-Modi virtual meeting. On Thursday, a source had said “wait for a big announcement on April 10”. The announcement for the Biden-Modi meeting came that day.

Clearly, both the sides are viewing the interaction at the top level as a signal to their ministers on how to tread on the vast gamut of issues expected to be taken up.

The White House Press release mentioned that among other issues “President Biden will continue close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilising impact on global food supply and commodity markets”. It is believed that for the US, the issue will take centrestage.

This will be Biden’s first one-on-one call with PM Modi since the Russian invasion began. There have been calls between the West and allies, and, significantly, Biden also had a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 18.

He engaged with the Indian leadership in a Quad phone call on March 3.

The press release from the Indian side on the Modi-Biden virtual meeting said, “The two leaders will review the ongoing bilateral cooperation and exchange views on recent developments in South Asia, the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest.”

FUEL, DEFENCE EQUIPMENT PURCHASE

Through a bunch of officials, from deputy NSA Daleep Singh to US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, visiting India, the US has communicated two messages – one, India should avoid buying discounted fuel from Russia. India has already expressed its stand, with Jaishankar calling the pressure-building a “campaign”. While it is expected that India will once again highlight that the imports account for less than 2%, it will be interesting to watch whether the offer by the US for alternatives will take any concrete shape in the 2+2 meeting. Also, if the option will be cost-effective for India, vital for the country as it has begun to hurt the consumers yet again.

India has also raised the issue of food and fuel shortages at the United Nations. In his most recent statement in the UNSC/UNGA, India’s Permanent Representative to UN TS Tirumurti said, “India is trying to bridge the wheat shortage arising out of the conflict. India is expected to boost wheat export to 10 million tonnes this year.”

ALSO READ | Russia Offers Oil to India at Big Discount on Pre-Ukraine War Price: What it Means for New Delhi

Moreover, the pressure on India to curtail its purchase of military equipment from Russia also needs to be discussed. The US is once again expected to express its desire to sell defence equipment to India – an offer made in the past, too, in the context of Russia. The Indian side could seek clarity during the 2+2 meeting on the CAATSA sanctions, after India’s deal for Russian S400 missile defence system came further under the scanner due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The US President is vested with the power to announce a Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) waiver, based on “national interest and if it would not endanger the US national security, adversely affect US military operations or compromise US defence systems”.

The US is aware of India’s need to acquire the S400 in light of the Chinese threat and that India has been in the process of acquiring S400 before the Ukraine crisis.

CHINA, STUDENTS

China will continue to remain a point of discussion in the context of Indo-Pacific. Sources told News18.com that it would not be entirely surprising if the US made a statement regarding China in the Indo-Pacific to show that even though Russia is the current adversary for it as opposed to India, China remains a common threat.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s statement, too, said one of the meetings aims at “upholding a free, open, rules-based international order to bolster security, democracy, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”.

ALSO READ | Ukraine War: West Hasn’t Stopped Buying Oil from Russia, but is Pushing India to Restrict Trade

News 18.com has also learnt that in the meeting, issues related to education, students and space will also be discussed. On April 12, a day after the 2+2 meeting, Jaishankar and his counterpart Antony Blinken will be part of a meeting in the Howard University, where remarks will be made by both and they will also hold a conversation with a group of students.

Howard University was founded in 1867 and was historically a Black research institution. It boasts of alumni namely the current Vice-President Kamala Harris and is being seen as a move to connect with a community actively shaping the US politics.

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first published:April 11, 2022, 13:50 IST
last updated:April 11, 2022, 15:35 IST
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