No major deliverables on trade in joint statement.
Following the bilateral discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden, India and the U.S. released a joint statement on their ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’, that spoke of cooperation in regional groupings, defence manufacturing, and climate. The statement also denounced the use of “terrorist proxies” and said Afghanistan should not become a safe haven for terror.
However, it did not announce any major deliverables, especially so with trade, talks around which will recommence by the end of the year.
Titled, ‘A Partnership for Global Good’, the statement says the two countries would work with regional groups like ASEAN and with Quad members to promote a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ and developing a trade and investment partnership “that increases prosperity for working families in both countries.”
On trade — which Mr. Modi, but not Mr. Biden, explicitly mentioned in his opening remarks at the Oval Office — the two sides said they looked forward to reconvening the India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum before the end of this year. They also said they would convene the CEO Forum and Commercial Dialogue early next year.
Speaking at a briefing after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said India’s access to the U.S.’s preferential trade program via the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which was revoked under the Trump administration, was not off the table.
“But obviously, when you have a meeting of 90 minutes you cannot go into each and every issue that is there,” he said.
The Foreign Secretary said Mr. Biden confirmed that he stands committed to the position that the U.S. supports an India-South African initiative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a TRIPS waiver (intellectual property rights) for COVID-19 vaccines.
The statement touched upon the importance of secure and resilient supply chains — a theme that it shared with the Quad summit outcomes.
Cooperation in emerging technology and building supply chains have been a focus of Mr. Modi’s visit to Washington. On Thursday he met with tech CEOs, his discussions with the heads of Australia and Japan included supply chains and technology.
The statement also notes the importance of the movement of skilled professionals, students, investors and business travelers. The U.S. is planning to ease travel restrictions in November. India is keen to avoid with the U.S., issues that it has had with vaccine certification and travel to the UK.
Mr. Modi raised the issue of Indians outside the U.S. realising social security benefits after contributing into the system in the U.S. (i.e., ‘totalisation’) , Mr. Shringla said.
The statement records appreciation for the help received during each country’s battle with COVID-19 and the finalisation of a health and biomedical science memorandum, which includes preparing for future pandemics.
Mr. Biden affirmed his support for India’s 2030 target of 450 GW of renewable energy and mobilizing finance for investments related to this. Mr. Modi “welcomed” U.S. leadership on climate and the Biden administration’s decision to return to the Paris Accord.
In terms of defence cooperation, Mr. Biden reaffirmed the U.S.’s “unwavering commitment to India as a Major Defence Partner” through close defence engagements in information and logistics sharing, military interactions, cooperation in military technology and “expanding engagements in a multilateral framework including with regional partners.” They noted joint drone manufacturing efforts between the two countries.
On terrorism, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to fight terror (including bringing to justice those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks).
Presumably referring to Pakistan, the statement said, “They [ Mr. Modi and Mr. Biden] denounced any use of terrorist proxies and emphasized the importance of denying any logistical, financial or military support to terrorist groups which could be used to launch or plan terror attacks.”
As in the Quad statement, the India-U.S. statement calls for Afghan territory to not be used to “threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or finance terrorists attacks,” consistent with United Nations Resolution 2593, which was passed at the end of August during India’s presidency of the Council.
The joint statement also called for the release of all political detainees in Myanmar, an end to the violence there and a “swift return” to democracy.