PM Modi’s US visit to decide contour of future of Indo-US ties

Washington: The first state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US is likely to be a defining moment for the Indo-US relationship and both sides are working on a robust outcome document that may take up matters that would decide the contour of the bilateral ties for decades to come, according to people familiar with the planning of the high-profile trip.

Modi has been invited by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for an official state visit that would include a State Dinner on June 22.

The preparation for the historic visit is expected to gain momentum this week in both capitals. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is headed to New Delhi for the second round of the iCET Dialogue with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced the US-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) in May 2022 to elevate and expand our strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of our two countries.

The two sides are finalising the joint statement, which is being described as a robust outcome document and as something that would shape the nature and contour of the Indo-US relationship for decades to come, according to multiple people familiar with the planning of the visit.

While the final decisions on the deliverable would be taken by the two leaders on June 22, the joint statement that is being drafted right now is believed to take up issues that would propel the India-US partnership, with key focus areas being technology, space, and defence, they said.

But all the sectors are likely to have a personal touch of the prime minister, who has insisted that these be linked to the development and welfare of the people.

Both Modi and Biden believe that the India-US relationship is important not only for the two countries but also for the rest of the world.

The outcome document is expected to be reflective of the visions of the two leaders, they said.

A concrete set of deliverables are likely to appear in the outcome documents that are being prepared. It, among other things, would also highlight the prime minister’s approach to technology for development.

While the outcome document would include things that would accelerate the cooperation between industries and, overall, the big picture likely to emerge from the historic visit is that it would concretise the trust and confidence level between the two countries like never seen before, they said.

Following the state visit, the partnership is headed to evolve from India being seen as a big market for American companies to the relationship being seen as that of two reliable partners, especially in the field of the supply chain. The key to it is India’s ability to produce things at scale and affordable prices with American technology.

The visit would result in taking up the trust and confidence between the two countries to an altogether new level.

According to the White House Historical Association, this would be the 11th state dinner that a US President is hosting for an Indian leader, but in the last 75 years, only two other Indian leaders have been given the honour of an official state visit.

The previous two state visits included the one for President S Radhakrishnan in June 1963 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2009.

When Modi addresses a joint meeting of the US Congress on June 23, it will make him only the third world leader, outside of Israel, to make such an address twice.

The other two are Winston Churchill in 1941, 43 and 1952 and Nelson Mandela in 1990 and 1994. Modi earlier addressed the US Congress in 2016.

At a time when the US Congress is bitterly divided on political lines, the letter from Congress inviting Modi to address the joint session was signed by Congressional leaders on both sides, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Prime Minister Modi will fly into Washington on June 21 from New York after attending the International Yoga Day celebrations.

As he drives into the city, after landing at Joint Base Andrews, hundreds of Indian Americans are preparing for a mega cultural show in the park in front of the White House and next to the Blair House, the official guest house of the US President.

Traditionally, the president hosts the visiting leader for an intimate private dinner at his residence, according to White House historians.

Over the next two days, the two leaders would spend several hours together, beginning with a welcome ceremony on the South Lawns of the White House.

This is expected to be one of the biggest White House welcome ceremonies, with the exception of the 2008 papal visit when, according to record, more than 13,500 people attended.

Several thousands of Indian Americans are planning to attend the welcome ceremony on the South Lawns of the White House, which might cross 5,000 on the morning of June 22.

More than 1,500 Indian Americans are planning to come to Washington from the New York and New Jersey areas.

Over 500 Indian Americans each are coming from states like California, Illinois, Texas, Georgia and Florida.

After the welcome ceremony, which would be addressed by the two leaders, Biden and Modi are then expected to walk towards the Oval Office for a one-on-one talk followed by a delegation-level meeting in the Cabinet meeting room.

From the visuals that emerged last month from Hiroshima, where the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting, the personal chemistry between Modi and Biden was very much evident.

Modi is one of the few world leaders with whom Biden has been either meeting or talking so frequently.

This personal relationship, officials feel, is the key driver of the India-US partnership, which is now being described as the most consequential relationship of the 21st century.

Following the meetings at the White House, which among other things, include interaction with the press, Modi would head to the US Capital for a joint address to the US Congress.

The meeting would be presided over by Vice President Kamala Harris. There is a huge demand from Indian Americans to attend this momentous occasion. Lawmakers are having a tough time in ticket distribution.

The Prime Minister would return to the White House later in the evening for the state dinner being hosted by Biden and the First Lady. The guest list has not been announced yet. The First Lady has a key role in the preparations. All eyes are on the dinner menu, decor and entertainment.

Harris would host the Prime Minister for lunch on June 23 at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, which is being co-hosted by the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Second Gentleman. The two leaders are likely to deliver remarks during the luncheon.

Interaction with the diaspora and the business community is one of the hallmarks of the prime ministers’ overseas trips, which is expected to consume most of the day’s proceedings on June 23.

In between, several Cabinet ministers in the Biden administration and key leaders are likely to call on the prime minister for meetings.