Biden will not ‘lecture’ Modi on human rights, White House says


Washington (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, on Wednesday for two days of talks that the White House sees as bolstering “one of the defining partnerships of our age,” despite ongoing concerns about human rights.

Washington wants India to be a strategic counterweight to China while Modi is seeking to raise the influence that his country, now the world’s most populous, has on the world stage.

Biden and Modi are expected to announce a variety of agreements related to defense cooperation and sales, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and investments in India by Micron Technology and other U.S. companies.

Biden is expected to bring up U.S. concerns about democratic backsliding in India, but he will not lecture Modi on the subject, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

When the U.S. sees challenges to press, religious or other freedoms, “we make our views known,” Sullivan said. He added: “We do so in a way where we don’t seek to lecture or assert that we don’t have challenges ourselves.”

“Ultimately, the question of where politics and the question of democratic institutions go in India is going to be determined within India by Indians. It’s not going to be determined by the United States,” Sullivan said.

Modi has been to the United States five times since becoming prime minister in 2014, but the trip will be his first with the full diplomatic status of a state visit, despite concerns over what is seen as a deteriorating human rights situation under his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Biden is under pressure by his fellow Democrats to bring up human rights with Modi. Modi is being warmly greeted by U.S. CEOs, including at a Friday reception. On Tuesday he met with Tesla’s (TSLA.O) Elon Musk in New York.

Both Biden and Modi are grappling with Bejiing’s flexing its muscle in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

“This visit is not about China. But the question of China’s role in the military domain, the technology domain, the economic domain will be on the agenda,” Sullivan said.

Modi will visit the National Science Foundation with first lady Jill Biden on Wednesday and have a private dinner with the president Wednesday night at the White House.

On Thursday, Modi will be welcomed with a colorful arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn. Biden and Modi will hold Oval Office talks and attend a state dinner in Modi’s honor Thursday night.

No joint press conference was planned. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said work was still ongoing on this subject.

Modi has not backed the Ukraine war effort and India has been heavily reliant on Russian oil. Biden will bring up Russia and Ukraine ahead of the G20 summit later this year that will be held in India, Sullivan said.

“Across the board, I think you’ll see a combination of deep strategic discussions and practical progress, tangible progress in every single dimension of the relationship, all of it reflecting and reinforce the fact that this from our perspective will be one of the defining partnerships of our age,” Sullivan said.

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