In the recent past, the American government regarded Modi with suspicion. However, he is now anticipated to receive a warm welcome amid escalating tensions between the United States and China. The West appears willing to overlook Modi’s repressive policies and his relationship with Russia to counter China.
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, landed yesterday – evening in the United States; for his first official state visit since coming to power about a decade ago. Modi, who in the past was condemned by the United States, is expected to receive a warm welcome, as part of which he is expected, to meet with the President of the United States and the leaders of the American economy. When the focus was on the tightening of relations between the countries; against the background of growing tensions with China.
During his visit, Modi is set to meet with President Biden at the White House and will also address the American Congress, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to speak before the legislature twice. In addition to meeting with Biden, Modi will have discussions with prominent figures in the American economy, including Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft), and Raj Subramaniam (CEO of FedEx). All of them will attend the State Dinner hosted by the White House on Thursday evening.
One notable meeting that has already taken place is between Modi and entrepreneur Elon Musk, who expressed enthusiasm about India’s future and announced possible significant investments by Tesla in the country. Musk also expressed his interest in improving India’s internet connectivity through SpaceX’s Starlink satellite service.
Modi’s visit and the warm reception he is expected to receive come against the backdrop of escalating tensions between the American and Chinese governments. The United States sees India, under Modi’s leadership, as a diplomatic and military counterbalance to China. Both countries perceive China as a threat. The Biden administration has expanded export restrictions to China, while Modi’s government has banned the use of numerous Chinese applications following a border clash in 2020 that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers.
Technological cooperation and the removal of regulatory barriers are expected to be high on the agenda during the visit. With the ongoing chip war between China and the United States and the Biden administration’s efforts to restrict Chinese access to advanced chips, reports suggest that the two countries may collaborate to establish semiconductor factories in India. The National Security Council has described India as a strategic partner of the United States in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, resilient supply chains, clean energy, semiconductors, and climate change.
While diplomatic discussions continue, U.S. chip imports from India have more than doubled in the first quarter, and Apple has tripled iPhone production in India to reduce dependence on Chinese manufacturing. Additionally, American memory chip manufacturer Micron is close to receiving government approval for a large-scale semiconductor manufacturing plant in India.
Technological cooperation with the United States is expected to extend to the defense sector as well. During Modi’s visit, an agreement is expected to be signed between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics for the manufacturing of engines for India’s fighter jets. This deal demonstrates the seriousness and desire of the United States to strengthen cooperation, especially considering their reluctance to share military technology with other nations.
The warm welcome that Modi is receiving in the United States is not taken for granted, considering his previous visa rejection and the ban on his entry into the country due to religious freedom violations. However, in the nine years since the ban was lifted, Modi has gradually gained acceptance by the White House, leading to the state reception he is expected to receive this week. This visit poses a challenging situation for the Biden administration, which has positioned itself as a defender of democracy. Modi’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has faced heavy criticism from human rights organizations for its Hindu nationalist policies and the continued oppression of minorities in India. The administration will likely attempt to portray the strengthening of relations with India as separate from endorsing Modi’s political approach. Whether they succeed or not, there are valid concerns.
In addition to human rights issues, the tightening of relations between the United States and India is influenced by other diplomatic factors. India has significant dependence on Russia, particularly for military equipment. Despite Western sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India has increased its purchases of Russian oil, coal, and fertilizers. However, tensions have emerged between India and China, and India’s Air Force has criticized Russia for its failure to fulfill arms supply commitments due to the war in Ukraine.
The red-carpet treatment for Modi is not exclusive to the United States under Biden’s administration. Last month, he met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albany, who praised him and highlighted his role in strengthening democracy. Before that, Modi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the G7 summit, marking their first meeting since the Russian invasion began.
Although the Indian economy experienced a growth rate of 6.1% in the first quarter of 2023, outperforming early forecasts of 5%, the country still faces high unemployment, especially among young people. The unemployment rate remains around 8%, and there is a shortage of well-paying jobs. Experts consider this situation a “ticking time bomb” and warn of the potential for social unrest if the government fails to generate more employment opportunities.
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