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India's Modi meets Kamala Harris ahead of bilateral talks with Biden and Quad summit

CNBC logo CNBC 9/24/2021 Saheli Roy Choudhury
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday as part of a three-day official visit stateside.
  • The two leaders exchanged views on a number of issues including the situation in Afghanistan, the coronavirus pandemic, tackling climate change as well as the U.S. and India's commitment towards the Indo-Pacific region, according to the Indian foreign ministry.
  • Modi is due to meet Biden to review the U.S.-India comprehensive global strategic partnership on Friday.
  • He will also attend the first in-person Quad Leaders' Summit hosted by Biden, alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese leader Yoshihide Suga.
a group of people in a room: US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prior to talks at the Vice Presidents Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2021. © Provided by CNBC US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prior to talks at the Vice Presidents Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2021.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday as part of a three-day official visit stateside.

The two leaders exchanged views on a number of issues including the situation in Afghanistan, the coronavirus pandemic, tackling climate change as well as the U.S. and India's commitment toward the Indo-Pacific region, according to the Indian foreign ministry.

They also discussed potential cooperation in areas such as space, technology and health care.

The visit come a day before Modi's first face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington.

Speaking in Hindi, Modi said at a joint briefing that the U.S. and India are natural partners that share similar values and geopolitical interests — and that cooperation between the two countries have continued to increase.

"India, of course, is a very important partner to the United States," Harris added. "Throughout our history, our nations have worked together, have stood together, to make our world a safer and stronger world."

"The United States, like India, feels very strongly about the pride of being a member of the Indo-Pacific, but also the fragility and the importance and strength as well, of those relationships, including maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific," she said.

While the exact geographical definition of the Indo-Pacific vary by countries and administrations, broadly it refers to the interconnected area between the Indian and Pacific oceans, joined together by the straits of Malacca in the heart of Southeast Asia.

U.S. pivot to Asia

Asia-Pacific is a top priority for the United States, where the Biden administration has been shoring up relations with various countries, as China's influence in the region continues to grow.

Even as the U.S. pulled out its military presence from Afghanistan, officials in Washington continued to forge new alliances including a recent security partnership between the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Modi is due to meet Biden to review the U.S.-India comprehensive global strategic partnership on Friday. He will also attend the first in-person Quad Leaders Summit hosted by Biden, alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese leader Yoshihide Suga.

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The four countries have an informal alliance called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, that positions itself as being committed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

The Quad is seen in some circles as an anti-China alliance in part due to Beijing's increasingly aggressive moves in the East China Sea and South China Sea in recent years. But so far in its public statements, the alliance has avoided any direct mention of China and its foreign policies in the region.

Modi will cap his U.S. visit by addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25. He has already held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Australia and Japan.

What to expect from the Quad summit

The four leaders from the Quad countries met virtually in March and announced the formation of three working groups looking into areas such as vaccine expertise, critical and emerging technologies and climate change.

On Friday, it's likely that the leaders may share some of the outputs from those working groups, according to Richard Rossow, the Wadhwani chair in U.S.-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"I suspect you might see some outputs from those three working groups, most notably cooperation on Covid where the world is looking for a greater access to vaccines," Rossow told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia." on Friday.

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"Among the Quad, you have got two of the largest vaccine producers in the United States and India," he said. "There also may be some space to carve out new work groups as well."

It is unlikely that any Quad-related documents or announcements from Friday's meeting would explicitly mention China, said Dhruva Jaishankar, executive director at the Observer Research Foundation America.

"You do see a bigger emphasis on providing global public goods for the Indo-Pacific region, starting with the vaccine initiative but also extending to critical and emerging technologies, climate change and ... perhaps other areas as well," Jaishankar told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Friday.

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