| 21 April 2024, Sunday |

As Biden, Modi meet, GE clinches India jet deal

President Joe Biden aims to herald the start of a stronger U.S.-Indian relationship on Thursday by announcing a series of defense and trade agreements with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Washington attempts to counter China’s global influence.

Biden is rolling out the red carpet for Modi, treating him to a colorful White House South Lawn arrival ceremony on Thursday morning followed by Oval Office talks and a glittering state dinner in the evening. The two leaders held a private, intimate dinner at the White House on Wednesday night.

In a rare gesture, Modi has agreed to take questions from reporters with Biden at the White House on Thursday. Modi has not conducted a news conference since becoming prime minister nine years ago and his visit has drawn attention to concerns over human rights in India.

Washington wants India to be a strategic counterweight to China and sees India as a critical partnership. Modi is seeking to raise the influence that India, the world’s most populous country at 1.4 billion, has on the world stage in the wake of strained ties with neighboring China.

Senior Biden administration officials said the sweeping agreements to be announced on semiconductors, critical minerals, technology, space cooperation and defense cooperation and sales will ring in a new era in relations between the two countries.

Some of the deals are aimed at diversifying supply chains to reduce dependence on China. The United States has also sought to address China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific region by bolstering defense ties with countries like India and Australia.

The two leaders will sign off on what one official called a “trailblazing” deal to allow General Electric Co (GE.N) to produce jet engines in India to power Indian military aircraft. GE said on Thursday it signed a memorandum of understanding with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to produce the engines.

In addition, U.S. Navy ships in the region will be able to stop in Indian shipyards for repairs under a maritime agreement reached between the two governments.

The leaders will also announce India’s plan to procure U.S.-made armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, the U.S. officials said. “We have now entered really a ‘next generation’ defense partnership,” said the U.S. official.

The agreements will include U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology’s (MU.O) $2.7 billion plan for a new semiconductor testing and packaging unit, to be built in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. The U.S. will also make it easier for skilled Indian workers to get and renew U.S. visas.

  • Reuters