A week after Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison rang Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tell him about the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) pact that was going to be announced, the two leaders met in Washington DC on Thursday.
The meeting took place a day before the first-in-person Quad leaders’ summit, which will be hosted by US President Joe Biden.
The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi tweeted, “Another chapter in our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Australia!”
Another chapter in our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Australia!
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) September 23, 2021
He said Modi and Morrison discussed “regional & global developments as well as ongoing bilateral cooperation in areas related to Covid-19, trade, defence, clean energy & more.”
The Prime Minister’s official handle tweeted, “Advancing friendship with Australia…They discussed a wide range of subjects aimed at deepening economic and people-to-people linkages between India and Australia.”
Great to meet with my good friend and a great friend of Australia, Indian PM @narendramodi, during my visit to the US. A wide-ranging and productive discussion ahead of the first in-person Quad meeting as we look to further deepen the partnership between our two countries. https://t.co/XZutkNw3t7
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 23, 2021
The Prime Minister will meet with US Vice President Kamala Harris and Japan’s outgoing PM Yoshihide Suga in the early hours of Friday, India time.
On Friday evening 8.30 pm IST — 11 am in Washington DC — Modi will meet President Biden at the White House, which will be followed by the Quad leaders’ summit.
Besides Indo-Pacific strategy, the leaders are expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Covid vaccines, resilient global supply chains, climate change, and new and emerging technologies.
A pact or framework on global supply chains — with an eye on China — is expected to be adopted by the Quad leaders after the high-profile summit.
This will be the signature event of the visit, which is expected to take place at 11.30 pm India time on Friday.
The Quad summit is taking place within days of the US, UK, and Australia signing a new trilateral security alliance for the Indo-Pacific in an attempt to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Unveiling the ambitious security initiative, President Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said in a joint statement that the pact would promote stability in the Indo Pacific, and support their shared values and interests.
The pact, named AUKUS (Australia, UK, US), will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines to counter China’s growing power in the strategically vital region.
India has said that Quad and AUKUS are “not groupings of a similar nature”, and since India is not a party to AUKUS, it is neither relevant nor will it have any impact on the Quad.
The Modi-Biden meeting will be their first in-person meeting since Biden assumed office in January this year, although they have spoken thrice since November, and participated in virtual summits thrice.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Modi began his US visit with a series of meetings with top executives of Qualcomm, Adobe, First Solar, General Atomics and Blackstone.
He discussed investment opportunities in India’s electronics and telecommunications sectors with Cristiano Amon, CEO of Qualcomm. This included the recently launched Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM), as well as developments in the semiconductor supply chain in India.
“Strategies for building the local innovation ecosystem in India were also discussed,” an MEA statement said.
Sources said Amon expressed enthusiasm about working with India on ambitious digital transformation programmes including in 5G and PM-WANI, among others.
“It’s the right time for India to not only manufacture for the Indian market but also plan to serve the needs of other countries”, he is learnt to have said.
Amon also expressed interest in partnering with India in the field of semiconductors. Sources said the Prime Minister assured him that India will proactively work on the proposals made by Qualcomm.
At his meeting with Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO of Adobe, the PM discussed the company’s ongoing collaboration and future investment plans in India.
“Discussions also focused on India’s flagship programme Digital India, and use of emerging technologies in sectors like health, education and R&D,” the MEA statement said.
The Adobe CEO expressed interest in contributing to the celebration of India’s 75th anniversary of independence. He expressed the desire to bring video animation to every child in India, sources said.
Modi said that bringing smart education to every child is important, and that makes technology very important. He said that in the Covid era, the ground for digital education has been laid, and it was time to move forward now, sources said.
The PM and Narayen both emphasised on creating centres of excellence in AI in India.
At the PM’s meeting with Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar, the discussion was about India’s renewable energy landscape, particularly solar energy potential, and the target of generating 450 GW electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
“Discussions also took place about First Solar’s interest in setting up manufacturing facilities in India using their unique thin-film technology by availing the recently launched Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme, as well integrating India into global supply chains,” the MEA said.
Sources said Widmar expressed “happiness with the Indian policies for climate change and related industries”.
Modi spoke about the “One world, one sun, and one grid initiative, and its potential”. He referred to the target of 450 GW of renewable energy, and emphasized on India’s focus on manufacturing for solar energy. He said that companies in the field of solar energy could take the most advantage of PLI schemes, sources said.
In his meeting with Vivek Lall, CEO of General Atomics, the PM spoke about India’s liberal drone policy, and the opportunity in the field of manufacturing due to the PLI scheme.
Lall said India is an attractive destination for manufacturing drones. He also said that a dedicated drone hub can be created in India to support the ecosystem of drones.
At his meeting with the PM, Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, spoke about Blackstone’s investment in India, and the company’s plans to ramp it up further.
Sources said Modi said there is huge scope for further expansion of Blackstone’s partnership in India, and elaborated on the reforms carried out in the country. He specifically spoke about the asset monetisation and bad bank initiatives.