Biden seeks to tighten U.S.-India ties at G-20

September 8, 2023

President Biden was set to arrive at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in New Delhi Friday with a reported aim of strengthening ties between the U.S. and India amid the two nations’ concerns over China.

Biden hosted India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a White House state visit this past June, noting at the time that the two had “spent a lot of time together” going back to when he was Vice President, and Modi had first been elected Prime Minister. “And since I’ve become President, we continue a relationship built on mutual trust, candor and respect,” he added.

In fact, there have been more than a dozen face-to-face or virtual encounters between Biden and Modi since 2021. Among their reported shared concerns is China’s increasing assertions in the Indo-Pacific.

Last month, India lodged an objection through diplomatic channels with Beijing over a newly-drawn Chinese map that lays claim to Indian territory along their border. Further, China and India have thousands of troops facing each other in a disputed region of the Himalayas.

But China is not the only concern shared by Biden and Modi. Among others are climate change, emerging artificial intelligence, and the global supply chain.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden and Modi plan to meet at the Prime Minister’s residence during the G-20 summit. “This is not your typical bilateral visit to India with meetings taking place in the Prime Minister’s office,” said Sullivan.

India, the world’s most populous nation, prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy. However, analysts have warned that the country is backsliding on human rights, including religious freedom and journalistic freedom, as it attempts to compete with China—until recently the world’s most populous nation. 

“President Biden himself has spoken to questions related to democracy and human rights as recently as the state visit earlier this year,” Sullivan told reporters. “The United States, our position on these issues is clear.”

The White House has been quiet about any potential announcements that could come out of Biden’s latest meeting with Modi—if any come out of it at all.

In terms of the larger G-20 Summit, though, Sullivan said during a White House press briefing earlier this week, “As we head into New Delhi, our focus is going to be on delivering for developing countries, making progress on key priorities for the American people from climate to technology, and showing our commitment to the G-20 as a forum that can actually—as I said before—deliver. And thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and India’s Presidency, we hope we’ll be able to do all of those things.”

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