President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, treating him to a colorful White House South Lawn arrival ceremony on Thursday morning, followed by Oval Office talks and a glittering state dinner in the evening. The whirlwind visit highlights the importance Washington attaches to India, an essential partner in countering China’s growing global influence.
During the visit, the two leaders will announce a series of defense and trade agreements, including a GE deal to manufacture jet engines in India for India’s military aircraft and a partnership between Micron Technology and Indian-based company Wipro to build a semiconductor assembly and test factory. They also plan to sign a deal for India to join an international cooperative space exploration effort. And Modi will commit to launching India’s first satellite into orbit in 2024, marking the start of what he calls “a technology decade or decade.”
Among the most high-profile deals is an agreement for General Electric to make F414 engines at its India plant for use in Indian fighter jets and naval drones, deepening the two countries’ military ties amidst heightened tension with China over their shared border. Biden has hailed the partnership as “trailblazing” in a statement. The announcement comes as the US seeks to boost its ties with India to counter Chinese ambitions and wean its Asian allies away from long-standing reliance on Russian military equipment.
US-India cooperation on issues such as battling extremism and climate change has soared since Biden took office, with the relationship now seen as one of the administration’s key foreign policy priorities. The administration has been working to build up India’s booming economy and military power, with India increasingly seen as a counterweight to China’s growing global influence in the region.
But the White House has been under pressure from Democrats in Congress to raise concerns about alleged democratic backsliding in India under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government. The White House says that adding a press conference to the visit schedule, which was not originally part of the initial public schedule, will allow critical questions to be raised.
The two leaders will discuss the broader bilateral relationship during the private meetings, including trade and energy issues. They will also address a joint session of Congress and attend a state dinner in the evening, hosted by the president in a tented pavilion on the White House’s South Lawn that is expected to be attended by about 400 guests.
During the day, Modi and the Bidens were introduced to a series of students from the White House’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEAM) programs. The program aims to increase opportunities for women and minorities in STEM fields. The two leaders also visited a historic section of the Library of Congress, viewing Indian manuscripts and artifacts. They were also invited to take a yoga class by Biden’s wife, Jill.