Biden Seeks to Strengthen Ties with Indian Prime Minister Modi Amid Complexities

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President Joe Biden is placing significant importance on his relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with upcoming meetings and a state visit demonstrating the commitment to strengthen ties. However, the alliance between the United States, the world’s largest economy, and India, the most populous nation, faces complexities due to differing approaches to geopolitical issues.

Both countries recognize the strategic importance of deepening their bonds as they navigate China’s economic rise and increased global influence. While Biden advocates for democratic ideals and openly opposes Russia for its actions in Ukraine, Modi’s criticism of Russia has been tepid, leading to concerns about the erosion of India’s democratic traditions.

The future of the U.S.-India alliance relies on patience and a long-term approach. The focus is on steady progress in defense relations and the rapid intensification of business ties, with the pace determined by India’s movement. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, had a relatively warm relationship with Modi, and efforts have been made to forge a connection with Biden.

India’s stance on issues like Russia and China is a key consideration. India abstained from voting on U.N. resolutions condemning Russia and refrained from joining the global coalition against Russia. Maintaining some distance from China, India worries that isolating Russia would push it closer to Beijing. India and China currently have strained relations, with a prolonged standoff along their disputed border. India’s involvement in the Quad (U.S., Japan, Australia) should not be mistaken for an alliance, as India also participates in organizations dominated by Beijing and Moscow.

Both the U.S. and India have emphasized technology partnerships, particularly in defense, clean energy, and space. The two leaders are expected to discuss common challenges such as climate change and health security during Modi’s upcoming state visit to the U.S. in June. The U.S. has been the fastest-growing defense trade partner for India, reducing its dependence on Russian arms by diversifying its purchases.

While building a closer relationship with Modi, Biden faces concerns from human rights advocates regarding Modi’s track record on freedom of the press and treatment of minorities. India’s political landscape is also evolving, with the main opposition party winning control of a state, potentially uniting the divided opposition for the next general election.

Despite the complexities, developing a personal rapport between Biden and Modi behind the scenes is seen as crucial for overcoming differences and fostering a favorable impact on U.S.-India relations. The investment in this relationship is deemed worthwhile by experts, considering the potential benefits for both countries in navigating geopolitical challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.