U.S. NSA Jake Sullivan to visit New Delhi next week ahead of PM Modi’s Washington visit

U.S. NSA Jake Sullivan to visit New Delhi next week ahead of PM Modi’s Washington visit

Jake Sullivan’s trip comes amidst flurry of preparation for Narendra Modi’s travel to New York and Washington later this month; the two sides are expected to finalise the agenda for the Prime Minister’s visit, as well as the strategic and defence agreements they hope to sign or announce

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will visit India next week, for meetings with NSA Ajit Doval and other officials, as part of a number of high-level meetings ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States later this month, sources confirmed.

The visit by Mr. Sullivan, seen as one of U.S. President Joseph Biden’s key foreign policy point-persons, follows U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to Delhi on Monday, and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra’s visit to Washington on Tuesday, where he met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

The two sides are expected to finalise the agenda for Mr. Modi’s visit on June 21-24, as well as key strategic and defence agreements they hope to sign or announce during the State visit.

Technology partnership

According to the sources, Mr. Sullivan will be in Delhi on June 13 and 14. Among the deals expected to see progress during Mr. Modi’s visit are a major technology partnership for GE-414 jet engines to be assembled in India and other co-development plans under the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET). Mr. Doval had launched the iCET talks along with Mr. Sullivan in January this year, during a visit to the U.S. where the invitation for Mr. Modi’s State visit was handed over to him.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (R) meets White House National Security Advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan. File.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (R) meets White House National Security Advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan. File. | Photo Credit: ANI

The flurry of meetings included an unusual visit by the Prime Minister’s close aide and Principal Secretary P.K. Mishra last month, who met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and USAID Administrator Samantha Power. The meetings indicated possible movement on trade issues between the two countries that had reached an impasse over the Donald Trump administration’s decision to withdraw India’s GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) special export status in 2019, and the shelved plans for Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks after Mr. Biden came to power. However, the two sides have been hopeful of resolving tariff issues, and price caps on medical devices. In addition, they are likely to announce a number of “third country partnerships” to be headed by India and U.S. development agencies, possibly under the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

On Monday, the U.S. State department smoothed over any concerns that Mr. Modi would have to face questions over the state of democracy in India after an extremely critical State department report on religious freedom was released last month. A spokesperson for the administration, John Kirby, called India a “vibrant democracy” . “Anybody that … happens to go to New Delhi can see that for themselves,” Mr. Kirby said, adding that there would likely be discussions on the health of democratic institutions during the visit as take place between “friends”.

‘Stronger friendship’

Mr. Kirby added that Mr. Modi’s visit was “really about advancing what is now and what we hope will be a deeper, stronger partnership and friendship going forward”, and that India “matters” not just bilaterally to the U.S. but also multilaterally.

According to officials in Delhi and Washington, plans for Mr. Modi’s visit are still being finalised, but a large part of his itinerary is now falling into place. Mr. Modi will travel to New York first, to participate in a function for International Yoga Day on the lawns of the United Nations on June 21. He will fly to Washington that afternoon. Sources said that officials are discussing a possible closed-door “restricted” dinner between Mr. Biden and Mr. Modi on the same day, before the formalities of the State visit begin.

On June 22, Mr. Modi will be given a ceremonial welcome at the White House in the morning, followed by a bilateral meeting. In the afternoon, he will address the joint session of the U.S. Congress, which he had also addressed in 2016.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File. | Photo Credit: AP

“We are proud of our Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with the U.S., built upon the foundation of shared democratic values, strong people-to-people ties, and an unwavering commitment to global peace and prosperity,” Mr. Modi tweeted on Monday, accepting the invitation to address the U.S. Congress.

State banquet

In the evening of June 22, he will attend the State banquet in his honour hosted by Mr. Biden and U.S. First Lady Jill Biden. The last such banquet for an Indian leader held in November 2009 for then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur who were hosted by the Obamas. State banquets are always marked by unique culinary and cultural touches by the White House, and officials said they are still working on the details for the event. In April during a similar State banquet at the White House, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol showed off his singing skills, belting out a version of the 1970s song “American Pie” for the U.S. President.

On June 23, Mr. Modi is expected to address a large gathering of the Indian diaspora at Washington’s Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts. Officials did not confirm whether there are plans for Mr. Biden to attend the event as former President Trump did at the “Howdy Modi” diaspora event in Houston in 2019. The two sides have also discussed the possibility of a short trip together outside Washington, possibly to Camp David, the U.S. President’s official retreat.

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