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Joe Biden to host Modi at White House for first bilateral meeting on Sep 24

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Washington, Sep 20: President Joe Biden would host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for their first in-person bilateral meeting at the White House on September 24 to further cement the close relationship between the two countries, a senior US official said on Monday.

Joe Biden to host Modi at White House for first bilateral meeting on Sep 24

US Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Prime Minister Modi on September 23, the official told PTI here. President Biden will host his first in-person meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the White House on September 24, the official said.

"The Biden-Harris Administration has enhanced our global partnership with India by working together to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, leading efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and taking concerted action to address the climate crisis," the official said.

The leaders will be focused on strengthening the deep ties between their people and shared democratic values that have underpinned the special bond between the United States and India for more than seven decades, he said.

Earlier, the president's weekly schedule released by the White House on Monday said, "The President will participate in a bilateral meeting with His Excellency Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India."

Both leaders have spoken virtually on multiple occasions after Biden, a Democrat, became US president in January. The last telephone conversation between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden took place on April 26. Vice President Harris and Prime Minister Modi held a telephone conversation on June 3. Harris is the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to be elected Vice President.

The last time Prime Minister Modi visited the US was in September 2019 when he and then US President Donald Trump, a Republican, addressed the high-profile Howdy-Modi event in Houston. Biden will also meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the White House said on the president's engagements on Friday.

Later on September 24, Biden will host the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders' Summit at the White House with Modi, Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, according to the US president's weekly schedule. The four leaders will review progress made since their first virtual Summit on 12 March this year and discuss regional issues of shared interest, the Ministry of External Affairs said last week in New Delhi.

"As part of their ongoing efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, they will review the Quad Vaccine initiative which was announced in March this year," it said. They will also exchange views on contemporary global issues such as critical and emerging technologies, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, climate change and education.

"The Summit would provide a valuable opportunity for dialogue and interactions among the leaders, anchored in their shared vision of ensuring a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region," the MEA statement said. The evolving situation in the strategically vital Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's aggressive muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years. Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan. Both maritime areas in the South and East China seas are rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. The South China Sea is also a vital commercial gateway for a substantial portion of the world's merchant shipping.

Thus it is a vital economic and strategic sub-region of the Indo-Pacific region. President Biden is scheduled to leave for New York later on Monday to address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. It will be Biden's maiden address to the world body. In New York, Biden is scheduled to meet Australian Prime Minister Morrison. On his return from New York, the White House said, Biden will host a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

The visit to the US will be Modi's first foreign visit in nearly six months and his second since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Modi travelled to Bangladesh to attend events organised to mark the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of the War of Liberation of that country. PTI LKJ SCY AKJ AKJ

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