Afghanistan crisis, China's assertiveness, ways to contain terrorism to figure in Modi-Biden talks
New Delhi, Sep 21: The Afghan crisis and its implications, China's growing assertiveness, ways to stem radicalism and cross-border terrorism and further expansion of India-US global partnership are expected to be the central focus of the first in-person meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden in Washington on September 24. The prime minister's other engagements during his September 22-25 visit to the US include his participation at the Quad summit, address at the UN General Assembly, separate bilateral talks with his counterparts from Japan and Australia and a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris.
At a media briefing on the prime minister's visit to the US, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the developments in Afghanistan will be extensively discussed in the bilateral talks between Modi and Biden and the Indian side will convey that Washington needs to continue focus on that country.
People familiar with the visit said China's aggressive behaviour, Pakistan's support to various terrorist groups including those operating in Afghanistan and implications of the Afghan crisis on the regional security are expected to figure in the Mod-Biden meeting, Quad summit and almost all other key meetings that the prime minister will have in the US.
In the bilateral talks between Modi and Biden, the Indian side is expected to discuss extensively the future of Afghanistan and ways for the two countries to work together in dealing with various challenges emanating from the Taliban-ruled country including the threat of terrorism, they said.
The Modi-Biden bilateral talks will be followed by the first in-person summit of the Quad which is comprised of India, the US, Japan and Australia. Shringla said Modi and Biden, in their meeting, are expected to focus on further bolstering bilateral trade and investment ties, strengthening defence and security collaboration and boosting the strategic clean energy partnership.
"The bilateral meeting (between Modi and Biden) will also feature the current regional security situation following recent developments in Afghanistan, our stakes as a neighbour and a longstanding and a preferred development partner of Afghanistan," he said. "In this context, we would undoubtedly discuss the need to stem radicalism, extremism, cross-border terrorism and the dismantling of global terrorist networks," he added.
Shringla said the importance of smooth post-COVID travel, especially for students is also an important factor and is expected to be discussed at the talks. It will be Modi's first in-person meeting with Biden after he became the US President in January.
After concluding his engagements in Washington, Modi will travel to New York on the evening of September 24 and address the 76th session of the UN General Assembly the next day. Shringla said Modi will also participate in the COVID-19 global summit being hosted by President Biden on Wednesday.
The prime minister is also scheduled to meet a number of top executives of major American companies. The prime minister's delegation will include External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Shringla among others.
Referring to the Quad summit, Shringla described the coalition as a partnership among four like-minded countries in pursuit of common interests in striving for a free, open and inclusive Indo-pacific region. Besides Modi and Biden, the summit will be attended by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison.
"The four leaders will share perspective on the regional situation, emerging challenges including in South Asia and Indo-Pacific region and how to work together to contain COVID-19," the foreign secretary said. Shringla said the leaders will take stock of progress made since the virtual summit of Quad in March, especially in the COVID-19 vaccine partnership. He said the summit will consolidate the Quad as a "force of global good" and will give the prime minister an opportunity to share his vision.
"They will identify new areas of cooperation that will reinforce the positive and constructive agenda of the Quad including contemporary areas that will benefit the Indo-Pacific region," Shringla said. In March, President Biden hosted the first-ever summit of the Quad leaders in the virtual format that vowed to strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, anchored by democratic values and unconstrained by coercion, sending an apparent message to China.
At the UN General Assembly, the foreign secretary said the prime minister will speak on several important issues including the regional situation, cross-border terrorism, global efforts to combat COVID-19 and climate change. Asked whether Pakistan's role in supporting terror groups in Afghanistan will be raised by India at the talks with Biden, Shringla said counter-terror cooperation is a key area of India-US cooperation.
He also referred to the recent UN resolution that said the Afghan territory should not be used for terrorism in any other country. The foreign secretary said there will be a focus on countries and non-state actors which are opposed to this idea. Asked about the proposed limited trade deal between India and the US, he said there were some discussions with the previous US administration and India. He said both sides will continue to discuss many areas of investment and trade regime.
"Whether that leads to a continuation of free trade agreement or a part agreement, that is something we have to see," he said. On the US travel policy, Shringla said it has been gradually liberalised. "The US also took steps to ensure that visas for Indian students who had to travel to the US to join universities, colleges and institutions were provided," he said. The foreign secretary said the US is now moving to the professional category on the visa front. "We have also seen reports that fully vaccinated travellers would be allowed to freely travel to the US. This, I think, is positive news," he said.
"Government has taken steps to facilitate vaccination of those of our citizens who are travelling abroad, students, professionals anyone going on official work. Your vaccination will be expedited and the period between two doses will be shortened," he said. PTI MPB RT RT