Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to travel to Washington DC and New York in the last week of September, according to top government sources. This will be his first visit to the United States since President Joe Biden assumed office early this year. If the schedule works out as per ongoing discussions, the window of opportunity that is being explored is September 22-27, said sources.
This will be Modi’s first in-person meeting with Biden. The two have met virtually on at least three occasions - the Quad summit in March, the climate change summit in April, and the G-7 summit in June this year. Modi was supposed to travel to the UK for the G-7 summit where he could have met Biden, but had to cancel the trip due to the second Covid-19 wave across India.
With the situation in Afghanistan unfolding rapidly, Modi’s visit is significant. Besides meeting Biden, he is expected to have important meetings with the top echelons of the US administration. Modi last visited the US in September 2019, when then US President Donald Trump had addressed the Howdy Modi event - the Prime Minister’s “abki baar Trump sarkar” line had not gone down well with the Democratic party’s establishment.
Two years since, it will be an effort to reach out to the Democratic establishment, which has been quite vocal about the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. On the strategic side, the two sides will work on an ambitious agenda on the Indo-Pacific – with the Chinese challenge being one of the shared concerns. In this context, an in-person Quad leaders’ summit is being planned in Washington DC, around the same time as Modi’s visit.
But Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga’s decision to step down after a one-year tenure has put a spanner in the works. Sources said that while an in-person summit for all the Quad leaders looks like a remote possibility, a “hybrid format” could be an option, where at least two leaders – Modi and Biden – join in person, while Australia’s Scott Morrison and Japan’s Suga join virtually.
In a bid to give shape to the PM’s agenda, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has met top Biden administration officials in Washington DC, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, and held substantive discussions with them on the strategic bilateral ties and regional and global issues like the current situation in Afghanistan.
This was the first high-level discussion between the officials of the two countries after the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan on August 31. Shringla, who arrived in the US capital met Blinken at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.