• Sunday, December 03, 2023


Modi to meet Musk, talk tech and trade during US visit

With many countries wooing Modi, Washington hopes its co-production and technology offers will help secure a key market

Modi had previously met Musk in 2015 during his visit to a Tesla Motors factory in California (Image Credit: Twitter)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to embark on a state visit to the United States of America on Tuesday (20) upon the invitation of US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. The visit will last until June 24.

During his visit, Modi plans to meet with CEOs of top companies, including Elon Musk. Approximately 10 CEOs, including Musk, will have the opportunity to meet with the prime minister.

The focus of these meetings is to enhance India’s access to technology, with technology being a key area of interest for India.

This will be the first meeting between Modi and Musk since he assumed control of Twitter. Previously, Modi had met Musk in 2015 during his visit to a Tesla Motors factory in California.

Notably, Tesla is currently exploring options to establish a factory in India, and Musk expressed strong interest in the Indian market during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Upon his arrival in New York, Modi is expected to meet with more than two dozen thought-leaders from various fields. These thought-leaders encompass Nobel laureates, economists, artists, scientists, scholars, entrepreneurs, academics, and experts from the health sector.

The objective of these interactions is to gain insights into the advancements in the US and explore potential collaborations.

The prime minister’s packed itinerary also includes an address to a joint session of the US Congress, meetings with business leaders and Indian expatriates, as well as a state dinner at the White House hosted by president Biden.

Trade and defense ties will be key focal points during this significant trip, which highlights the strong bond between the two nations.

Military and technological ties are also on the agenda as his hosts seek a regional counter to China.

Modi will also receive all the pomp of a state dinner at the White House on Thursday (22).

Hailed by New Delhi as a “historic” chance to “expand and consolidate” ties, the visit comes at a time of rising concerns on human rights and democratic backsliding under the Hindu nationalist leader.

But Washington is seeking to boost ties with a potential regional ally to counter an increasingly assertive China.

Analysts expect landmark announcements in clean energy and strategic technology, including a deal to jointly produce fighter jet engines.

– ‘Deep alignment’ –

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, on a visit to New Delhi earlier this month, announced an “ambitious new roadmap for defence industrial cooperation” with India.

It has been linked to a likely announcement, expected at this week’s summit, of a long-discussed multibillion-dollar plan to co-produce the jet engines in India.

New Delhi has been trying to become less dependent on Russian military hardware by diversifying imports and boosting domestic production.

With many countries wooing Modi, Washington hopes its co-production and technology offers will help secure a key market.

Ashok Malik, India head of The Asia Group advisory firm, said US-India ties were defined by “pragmatism and deep alignment at the government level”, with “very strong” economic and business links.

India is important as “a growing power” in a region “where China is becoming unusually assertive”, New Delhi-based Malik told AFP.

After a deadly clash with China along their disputed Himalayan border in 2020, India rapidly expanded its Washington ties and is already part of the Quad grouping alongside Australia, the United States and Japan.

-‘Contrasting personalities’-

India’s huge market and potential as an alternative to China-dependent supply chains make it attractive, but its ties with Moscow remain an irritant for Washington.

New Delhi has not condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has ratcheted up its oil imports from Russia.

Donald Camp, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that while the United States will push India for “some further action” on Russia, it “has not seemed to be a huge impediment in the development of the (US-India) relationship over the last year or so”.

Modi will also meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken — who on Sunday visited Beijing on the highest-level trip by a US official in nearly five years.

Kicking off his US trip on Wednesday (21) with a mass yoga demonstration at the UN headquarters in New York, Modi will also meet top US CEOs to make a fresh investment pitch before India’s national elections next year.

Samir Saran, president of New Delhi-based think tank the Observer Research Foundation, said that “despite the very contrasting personalities of the two leaders”, the Biden-Modi summit was expected to result in tighter ties.

An initiative on emerging technologies announced by the two countries last year “has the potential to shape this century’s geopolitics and technology landscapes”, Saran told AFP.

Saran said he expected the “two democracies to collaborate in securing global technology infrastructure, set governance standards, and counter techno-authoritarianism” in fields such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

(With inputs from AFP)

Eastern Eye

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