Modi arrived in the US capital at a turbulent time in world politics – exactly two years to the day he was in America for the “Howdy Modi” rally with then President Donald Trump – for his first in-person meetings with President Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris, outside of the four-leader Quad exchanges that will bring in leaders of Japan and Australia.
Although the Biden-Modi talks on Friday is expected to be the headliner, no less significant is his meeting on Thursday with the US vice-president of part-Indian heritage, given that the US President has entrusted her with a workload unprecedented in vice-presidential history, including managing the Covid-19 response, immigration issues, and heading the Space Force.
“I am also looking forward to meeting vice-president Kamala Harris to explore opportunities for cooperation between our two nations particularly in the area of science and technology,” PM Modi said ahead of the meeting, which is also their first.
Coincidentally, Kamala Harris’ mother Shyamala Gopalan had arrived in the US this week in 1958 as a 19-year old student, going on to earn a PhD with a dissertation evaluating “protein quality in chapatis” in the year Kamala was born.
But there will be more than just bread on the table as the two countries seek to expand cooperation into high-tech areas, including addressing supply chain issues in areas ranging from vaccines to semi-conductors. Modi is also scheduled to meet five US CEOs — two of them Indian-American — in line with the bilateral agenda of securing cutting edge technologies.
US officials though indicated that Kamala Harris will also discuss democracy and human rights issue with Modi, without specifying if it would relate to India.
A career left-leaning liberal, Harris has been a quiet critic of right-wing fundamentalism in India. Her parents Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris were vocal socialist activists who counted among their close friends and peers economists Ajit Singh (a contemporary of Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh), Amartya Sen, and Lord Meghnad Desai. All of them studied or taught in Berkeley in the 1958-1962 period.
In a coincidental illustration of the decreasing salience of Europe in the global scheme of things, PM Modi flew non-stop from New Delhi to Washington DC, the new long range Air India One allowing skipping of the usual refuelling stop in Frankfurt. But ahead of his trip, which also comes amid unease over the AUKUS Anglo powers alliance involving US, UK, and Australia, and whether it would undercut the Quad partnership, Modi reached out to France’s President Emmanuel Macron to signal that India would remain steadfast in its ties with Paris.
“Spoke with my friend President @EmmanuelMacron on the situation in Afghanistan. We also discussed closer collaboration between India and France in the Indo-Pacific. We place great value on our Strategic Partnership with France, including in the UNSC,” he tweeted ahead of his US trip.
Spoke with my friend President @EmmanuelMacron on the situation in Afghanistan. We also discussed closer collabora… https://t.co/hOACTi1Cou
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1632227685000