Deccan Chronicle

Modi, Biden to hold virtual summit today ahead of 2+2

Deccan Chronicle.| dc correspondent

Published on: April 11, 2022 | Updated on: April 11, 2022

Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister Dr S. Jaishankar have left for the US for the meeting

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden (PTI file image)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden (PTI file image)

New Delhi: Ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 talks in Washington on Monday at the foreign and defence ministerial level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting at which the United States will raise the "consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilising impact on global food supply and commodity markets."

Bilateral ties will also be discussed between the two leaders, with both the Indo-Pacific region and the role of China and "recent developments in South Asia" — a possible veiled reference to the situation in neighbouring Pakistan as well as Afghanistan —expected to come up for discussion.

New Delhi and Washington issued separate statements on the virtual meeting but there was no reference to the Ukraine issue in the statement issued by New Delhi

Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister Dr S. Jaishankar have left for the US for the meeting.

The US is pressing India to take a tougher line on its time-tested friend Russia in view of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine. While batting for immediate cessation of hostilities and resolution of the matter through dialogue, India has so far refused to condemn Russia and has stated that continuation of economic ties with Moscow is in New Delhi’s interest.

The Ukraine issue and India’s ties with Russia including the purchase of both Russian oil and weaponry are expected to be raised in a major way by the United States with India during both the virtual meeting between the two top leaders as well as the 2+2 Dialogue that will follow it.

The statement issued by New Delhi said: "The two leaders will review ongoing bilateral cooperation and exchange views on recent developments in South Asia, the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest. The virtual meeting will enable both sides to continue their regular and high-level engagement aimed at further strengthening the bilateral Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.

The United States, in its statement said, "President Biden and Prime Minister Modi will discuss cooperation on a range of issues including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, countering the climate crisis, strengthening the global economy, and upholding a free, open, rules-based international order to bolster security, democracy, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. The ;eaders will advance ongoing conversations about the development of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and delivering high-quality infrastructure. President Biden will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilising impact on global food supply and commodity markets. Biden last spoke to Prime Minister Modi with other Quad Leaders in March."

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had visited New Delhi recently and India’s recent purchase of Russian oil at heavily discounted rates seems to have jolted Washington. Just last week, the United Nations General Assembly had voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and India had once again abstained during voting along with many other nations.

India has so far been doing a tight-rope balancing act to avoid antagonising wither Washington or Moscow although India’s difficulties seem to be increasing on this score given the ever-widening gulf and hostility between the West and Russia. The West led by the US has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Russia and observers point to repeated indications from the US that there will be economic "consequences" on countries like India if they seek to ramp up ties with Russia despite these Sanctions.   

India’s purchase of weaponry and defence platforms including the S-400 missiles from Russia are also expected to be discussed during the talks. The purchase of Russian oil by India is also being viewed with increasing concern by Washington although Russian oil accounts for less than one per cent of India’s oil imports.

The US on the other hand supplies over seven percent of India’s oil imports and is expected to offer to increase this so that New Delhi does not have to buy Russian oil. India is also expected to tread cautiously on expanding trade ties with Russia in view of the Western sensitivities but at the same time, India is expected to firmly continue existing trade and defence ties with Moscow and is likely to convey that clearly to Washington.  

In a statement released last week, the US state department noted that the 2+2 meeting would celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations and said: "The 2+2 Ministerial is an important opportunity to advance our shared objectives across the breadth of the US-India Strategic Partnership, including enhancing our people-to-people ties and education cooperation, building diverse, resilient supply chains for critical and emerging technology, scaling up our climate action and public health cooperation, and developing a trade and investment partnership to increase prosperity for working families in both countries.  It is also a chance to highlight the growing Major Defense Partnership between the United States and India."

The US had further said,  "The relationship between the world’s largest democracies is built on a foundation of common values and resilient democratic institutions, and the shared Indo-Pacific interests of a rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds human rights, and expands regional and global peace and prosperity."

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