Biden receives Indian Prime Minister Modi at the White House

President Joe Biden hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on Wednesday, hosting Modi for a private dinner ahead of a much larger state dinner scheduled for Thursday.

The Bidens and Modi were joined by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval for a meal “including some of the president’s favorite dishes. , including pasta and ice cream,” the White House said.

Before their dinner, Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Modi watched dancers from Studio Dhoom, a local Indian dance studio, pay tribute to the regions of India.

The White House said Modi would receive a galley of handmade antique American books from the early 20th century as an official gift from the president and first lady.

Biden will also gift Modi a vintage American camera, along with an archival facsimile of George Eastman’s patent for the first Kodak camera, and a hardcover book of American wildlife photography, the White House has said. , adding that Jill Biden would present Modi with a signed, first edition copy of ‘Collected Poems of Robert Frost’.

Wednesday’s dinner kicks off Modi’s visit to Washington, where the two leaders are expected to discuss deepening their country’s defense ties and technology partnership, as well as expanding cooperation on major global issues, including climate change, during Modi’s state visit to the United States.

The visit comes as the Biden administration steps up efforts to strengthen relations with India as it continues to expand its global influence.

“We don’t think there’s really a bigger partner to help in this than India,” John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters on Tuesday.

The war in Ukraine and India’s relationship with Russia should also be on the agenda, Kirby said.

In recent years, Russia’s war in Ukraine and India’s human rights record have strained relations between New Delhi and Washington. India, which maintains a neutral position on the Russian-Ukrainian war, has not criticized the Russian invasion and continues to buy Russian oil, which has helped Moscow despite Western sanctions.

The United States and India, however, remain aligned on key objectives, including the fight against China’s influence in the region and around the world.

Chinese and Indian troops have had several skirmishes along their border in recent years. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in June 2020 in hand-to-hand combat with the Chinese army, followed by another clash last December.

The White House said Modi’s visit would also help reinforce the US and India’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific economic framework, which the White House announced last year to counter the economic weight of China in the region.

Biden and Modi are meeting as concern over the future of Indian democracy also continues to mount and experts say the space for dissent from government policies continues to shrink.

In a letter to Biden this month, Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, said human rights issues in India “endanger” US-India relations. “We strongly urge you to use your meetings with Prime Minister Modi to urge Modi to move his government and his party in a different direction,” Pearson wrote.

Kirby did not directly address the human rights concerns surrounding Modi’s visit during his Tuesday briefing. He said Biden “regularly” discusses human rights concerns with foreign leaders and described human rights as a “fundamental part” of Biden’s foreign policy.

“Both leaders will be able to speak for themselves once the meeting is over,” Kirby said.

On Thursday, Modi is expected to address a joint session of Congress ahead of the state dinner. The White House said it is expecting 400 guests for the dinner, which will be held in a tent pavilion on the South Lawn.

“With this official state visit, we bring together the oldest and largest democracies in the world. After years of strengthening ties, the US-India partnership is deep and expansive as we jointly address global challenges,” Jill Biden said in remarks ahead of the event. “But our relationship is not just about the government. We celebrate the families and friendships that span the globe, those who feel the ties of home, both in our two countries.

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