| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Indian PM Modi meets tech CEOs as Washington visit concludes

On the final day of a state visit marked by pledges of deeper US-India cooperation in fields such as space, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with US and Indian technology CEOs in Washington on Friday.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden threw out the red carpet for Modi, stating after approximately 2 1/2 hours of talks that their countries’ economic relationship was “booming.” Over the last decade, trade has more than doubled.

Biden and Modi gathered with CEOs including Apple’s (AAPL.O) Tim Cook, Google’s (GOOGL.O) Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) Satya Nadella.

Also present were Sam Altman of OpenAI, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, and Indian tech leaders including Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra Group, and Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, the White House said.

“Our partnership between India and the United States will go a long way, in my view, to define what the 21st century looks like,” Biden told the group, adding that technological cooperation would be a big part of that partnership.

Observing that there were a variety of tech companies represented at the meeting from startups to well established firms, Modi said: “Both of them are working together to create a new world.”

Modi, who has appealed to global companies to “Make in India,” will also address business leaders at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

The CEOs of top American companies, including FedEx (FDX.N), MasterCard (MA.N) and Adobe (ADBE.O), are expected to be among the 1,200 participants.

Modi, who touted “a new chapter” in the countries’ “strategic partnership” at the White House on Thursday, is seeking to position India, the world’s most populous country at 1.4 billion and its fifth-largest economy, as a manufacturing and diplomatic powerhouse.


Washington wants Delhi to be a strategic counterweight to China, and deals announced this week included several investments from U.S.-firms aimed at spurring semiconductor manufacturing in India and lowering its dependence on China for electronics.

The White House also announced plans to cooperate on quantum computing, scientific research and technological innovation, alongside plans to manufacture weapons in India.

Some political analysts question India’s willingness to stand up to Beijing over Taiwan and other issues, however. Washington has also been frustrated by India’s close ties with Russia while Moscow wages war in Ukraine.

Addressing the U.S. Congress on Thursday, Modi repeated his statement that “this is not an era of war” and called for “dialogue and diplomacy” to end the conflict.

Modi attended a lunch at the State Department with Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian American to hold the No. 2 position in the White House, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In a toast, Harris spoke of her Indian-born late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who came to the United States at age 19 and became a leading breast cancer researcher.

“I think about it in the context of the millions of Indian students who have come to the United States since, to collaborate with American researchers to solve the challenges of our time and to reach new frontiers,” Harris said.

Modi praised Shyamala Gopalan for keeping India “close to her heart” despite the distance to her new home, and called Harris “really inspiring.”

On Friday evening, Modi will address members of the Indian diaspora, many of whom have turned out at events during the visit to enthusiastically fete him, at times chanting “Modi! Modi! Modi!” despite protests from others.

Activists have called for the Biden administration to publicly call out what they describe as India’s deteriorating human rights record under Modi, citing allegations of abuse of Indian dissidents and minorities, especially Muslims. Modi leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has held power since 2014.

Biden said he had a “straightforward” discussion with Modi about issues including human rights, but U.S. officials emphasize that it is vital for Washington’s national security and economic prosperity to engage with a rising India.

Asked during a rare press conference on Thursday what he would do to improve the rights of minorities including Muslims, Modi insisted “there is no scope for any discrimination” in his government.

  • Reuters