New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Washington overnight Thursday on a five-day official visit to the US, high on the agenda will be an in-person meeting with the leaders of the Quad countries – India, Australia, the US and Japan against the backdrop of a looming threat from China.
The “Prime Minister was received by T. H. Brian McKeon, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources on behalf of the government of the USA,” a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.
From the Indian side, the welcome lineup included India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, defence attache Brigadier Anoop Singhal, Air Commodore Anjan Bhadra and naval attache Commodore Nirbhaya Bapna.
“Exuberant members of Indian diaspora were also present at the Andrews airbase and they cheerfully welcomed Prime Minister,” the statement added. According to newsreports, the Indian diaspora presence at the Andrews joint base was despite heavy rains lashing the area.
Modi’s schedule in Washington on Thursday includes a meeting with a select group of CEOs of US companies. The heads of Qualcomm, Adobe, First Solar, General Atomics and Blackstone will participate in the meeting, according to news reports.
Besides the meeting with the CEOs, Modi will also hold bilateral talks with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Thursday. This will be the first meeting between the two leaders since Australia, the UK and the US announced their trilateral security partnership known as AUKUS last week. Under the pact, the US will transfer technology to Australia to build a fleet of nuclear powered submarines.
The move comes in the backdrop of the Biden administration’s resolve to focus on the Indo-Pacific against the backdrop of the challenges posed by a rising China and Beijing’s aim to construct a naval force to rival that of the US. The rise of China coupled with increasing friction with its neighbours in the South China and East China seas and the Straits of Taiwan is being warily watched in the region and beyond. The AUKUS pact however has angered France which lost out on a 2016 deal to build diesel submarines for the Australian navy.
Briefing reporters on Modi’s US visit on Tuesday, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said the AUKUS arrangement was not relevant to the Quad nor would it affect the grouping’s functioning. He was responding to a question whether the new AUKUS alliance would impact or dilute the Quad – that brings together the US, India, Australia and Japan and which aims to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific against the backdrop of the belligerent emergence of China.
“The Quad is plurilateral grouping. It is a group of countries that have shared vision of their attributes and values. They also have a shared vision of the Indo-Pacific region as a free, open, transparent, inclusive region,” Shringla told reporters at a press conference.
The Quad has a proactive agenda like delivering vaccines to countries in the Indo-Pacific region to fight the pandemic, he said.
“On the other hand, AUKUS is a security alliance among three countries. We are not party to this alliance. From our perspective, this is neither relevant to the Quad not will it have any impact on its functioning,” Shringla said.