Prime minister Narendra Modi will embark on his first official state visit to the USA from 21st, June to 23rd, June after becoming the prime minister. As it’s his first state official visit to the USA, high expectations are on stake. On June 22, Washington will roll out the red carpet for Narendra Modi, who will just become the 3rd world leader (after France’s Emmanuel Macron and South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol) to be invited by President Joe Biden for a state visit and dinner.
During his visit, he will address the US congress. He also becomes the only leader from India who addresses the US congress more than once, such an opportunity is granted usually only to the prominent leaders and closest allies of the USA.
Moreover, US official state visits are rare and the highest ranked category of foreign visits. State visit invitation is considered as signs of friendly bilateral relations with the invited country. Before addressing the US congress on June 22nd, he will lead the Yoga celebrations on 21st, June on the occasion of International Yoga day at the UN Secretariat in New York. On 23rd, June Vice President Kamala Harris and secretary of state Antony Blinken will jointly hold a lunch for Prime Minister Modi.
Later, Modi will deliver a speech at an event organized by the US-India strategic partnership forum where top American CEOs and leaders will attend. Apart from the official engagements, he will be interacting with the CEOs, Professionals and other stockholders. He will also address the Indian diaspora in Washington.
During his visit, both countries will mainly focus on defense and technology collaborations. Ahead of his visit, India has given the nod to purchase 30 MQ9 sea guardian drones from the USA through foreign military sales route of the US government. These 30 MQ guardian drones will be used by all three services- 10 each for Indian Navy, Airforce and Army. These predator drones are important to scale up the surveillance along the himalayan border with China. These MQ9 drones can carry payloads of 1700 kg over a range of 11112 KM.
In 2020, amidst border clash with China in eastern ladakh, Indian navy had acquired 2 MQ9 sea guardian drones from the US’s General Atomics on lease for the surveillance on Bay of Bengal, Andaman Nicobar Islands, Arabian Sea and Near to Maldives Islands. Negotiations of the deal gain momentum and indicate a positive step towards strengthening defense cooperation between India and the USA. Deal would enhance India’s defense capabilities and deepen the defense partnership between two nations.
Two nations focussed on building a partnership which opened under the India-US initiative on critical and emerging technologies (iCET). The iCET is able to help the collaborations in quantum communications and its futuristic application in security to designing, fabricating and developing advanced chips based on semiconductors.
Semiconductor fabrication would be a key phase in sensor manufacturing and to become a hardware hub. iCET is not a government-to-government initiative alone. It would also be a collaborative initiative of Academia, Industry, research organizations and think tanks etc. In addition to that, two nations also kickstarted the collaborative discussions in open RAN, 5G, 6G and biotechnologies.
The Ukraine war could be the major talking point between New Delhi and Washington. India has maintained a neutral position in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. However, to fulfill domestic requirements, India has been purchasing crude oil from Russia despite stiff opposition from G7 and western countries. Another talking point between the two leaders could be the Indo-Pacific region and China challenge in the region.
China has become the major source of concern for both nations. India’s relation with China has deteriorated in recent years with military clashes due to Chinese expansionism. Chinese naval expansion in the Indian ocean also reinforced India’s participation in QUAD. The USA wants to convert QUAD into a military alliance like NATO. But so far, India has not been part of any military alliance. On the other hand In the last decade, the USA presence and influence has been shrinking in the Indo-Pacific, Western Asia and Africa due to China’s investments and ambitions. To regain the influence and to counter China in these regions, the USA needs India’s support.
India is hoping for significant developments in business and technology cooperation between the two countries. Modi could discuss breakthroughs in semiconductor supply chains with top American CEOs.The discussions will also focus on exploring new opportunities for collaborations, attracting new investments, and expanding the ties between the two countries.
These meetings and engagements aim to create a conducive environment for companies from two countries to thrive and contribute to economic growth. These meetings will also underscore the importance of India as a critical market for American business. In addition to that, India is a ready replacement for China in many ways, it is the most populous country which means large labor force with low wages, millions of skilled engineers, low manufacturing costs and modi’s government tax incentives under Make in India flagship. India is also a huge domestic market for the US companies.
Apart from that, President Biden is set to kick off for his reelection in 2024. Modi has emerged as a charming and popular leader in the world especially in the NRI community. With nearly 5 million population, Indian origin Americans are the second largest immigrant and fastest growing voting bloc in the USA. According to a survey, In 2020 74% of Indians backed the democratic presidential candidate Biden.
By hosting India’s Modi, Biden wants to show his respect and priority to the Indian and Modi. Again in the 2024 presidential election, President Biden expects the same voting pattern from the Indian origin Americans. Biden is patenting to exploit Modi’s “Diaspora diplomacy”.
(Author is a Visiting Fellow at India Foundation. India Foundation is a premier think tank in New Delhi)