Biden, Modi to meet for Quad in Tokyo  

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The US President has met Modi several times, most recently in a virtual setting, but has been unable to budge him from a fiercely independent foreign policy stand that does not always align itself with Washington’s outlook or goals

US President Joe Biden will travel to South Korea and Japan next month and attend the Quad summit in Tokyo, during which he will also meet India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the White House has said.

Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan has been scheduled for May 20 to 24. “This trip will advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s rock-solid commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday here. Biden will also hold bilateral meetings with South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan.

“The leaders will discuss opportunities to deepen our vital security relationships, enhance economic ties and expand our close cooperation to deliver practical results. In Tokyo, President Biden will also meet the leaders of the Quad grouping of Australia, Japan, India and the United States. We look forward to having further details to share about this trip soon,” Psaki said.

The US President has met Modi several times, most recently in a virtual setting, but has been unable to budge him from a fiercely independent foreign policy stand that does not always align itself with Washington’s outlook or goals. Both during their previous quad meeting in Australia and the virtual bilateral exchanges on April 11, there was daylight between the two sides on the Russia-Ukraine war, with the US and its treaty allies Japan and Australia bringing the Russia-Ukraine issue onto the Quad agenda and India demurring and declining to toe the US line.

India has its own problems: Biden

President Joe Biden spoke about things that “autocrats fear most” at a fundraising event in the United States on Friday. What stood out was the fact that he clubbed India in the sentence, which also mentioned dictatorships.

Joe Biden also spoke about China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. On China, he recalled how Xi Jinping once complained to him about the Quad alliance working in the Indo-Pacific in a way that is “against China”.

On Putin, Joe Biden said how the Russian leader got “exactly what he didn’t want” as “Finland and Sweden too now want to join NATO”.

“I indicated to Xi Jinping that I was going to pull together the Quad: Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. He said, ‘You’re just doing that to affect us.’ I said, ‘No, it’s because we’re trying to put together those folks who have an opportunity to work together in the Indo-Pacific’,” Biden said during a party fundraiser event at a private residence in Seattle.

“The point being that one of the things that the autocrats fear the most — and India has its own problems; all those countries have their own problems — is the notion that somehow we can work together in concert and contrary to what are essentially dictatorships, which a lot of countries have become, particularly not only China but Russia and many other countries…the Philippines,” he said.

‘India’s position on unilateral sanctions unchanged’

India’s position on sanctions against Russia hasn’t changed “one bit”, asserted the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), speaking about the likelihood of renewed requests from European countries for India to join the sanctions imposed by Western countries during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s European tour next week.

The visit to Germany, and Denmark for the Nordic Summit, and France, from May 2-4, where Modi will meet with leaders of at least seven European countries, is the Prime Minister’s first visit abroad in 2022, the MEA said on Thursday, and while “topical issues” like Ukraine would be discussed, the government expects to see more substantive bilateral subjects on the agenda for talks.

“We have a new Chancellor [Olaf Scholz] there…this will be the first interaction with him,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a briefing on Thursday, adding that the PM’s attendance at the second Nordic Summit would give relations with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden a more “structured format”, and the visit to France will make Mr. Modi one of the earliest foreign visitors after President Emanuel Macron’s re-election there.

Ahead of the PM’s meetings in Berlin, the German Ambassador said that strengthening ties between democracies is important in times of “turmoil and crisis”, without referring directly to the Ukraine conflict.

The MEA’s comments come after a number of European countries have made it clear they intend to keep pushing for India to shift its position on the conflict and on its refusal to join the US and EU’s sanctions.

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