(FILES) In this June 27, 2022, file photo, US President Joe Biden (R) greets India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they arrive to attend the outreach program on at Elmau Castle, southern Germany, during the Group of Seven Summit. Biden will host Modi for a state visit on June 22, 2023, that will affirm the two countries’ “deep and close partnership,” the White House announced May 10, 2023. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
(AFP) – US President Joe Biden will host India‘s Narendra Modi for a state visit in June, while Washington courts New Delhi as a bulwark against China despite disagreements on the delicate subject of Ukraine.
The visit, the highest level of diplomatic reception at the White House, will boost Washington and New Delhi’s “shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous, and secure Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.
The invitation comes despite rising concerns about human rights and democratic backsliding under Modi’s Hindu nationalist leadership in India, the world’s most populous nation.
Washington has long sought to boost India as a counterinfluence to an increasingly assertive China in Asia — and New Delhi, worried about Beijing’s build-up on the other side of its border, has also sought to build ties.
Ukraine has remained a stumbling point in the partnership, however. India, a long-time military ally of Russia, has called for an end to hostilities in Ukraine, but has never condemned the Russian invasion.
It will be the first state visit by Modi to the United States. He visited Biden at the White House in 2021, but as part of the Quad summit bringing together the United States, Australia, Japan and India.
This time India is understood to have pushed for the highest level of protocol for a head of state. The trip will include a state dinner.
Under the Biden administration, French President Emmanuel Macron was the first to receive the particularly solemn invitation of a state visit, complete with military honors and a gala dinner.
More recently, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was also invited for such a visit, with the two allies issuing a stern warning to North Korea over nuclear weapons.
The Modi visit will also strengthen the two countries’ “shared resolve to elevate our strategic technology partnership, including in defense, clean energy, and space,” the White House statement continued.
“The leaders will discuss ways to further expand our educational exchanges and people-to-people ties, as well as our work together to confront common challenges from climate change, to workforce development and health security,” it said.
Modi’s government has been widely accused by political opponents and rights groups of using the law to target and silence critics.
Nonetheless, he is a leader much courted by the West: he will also be the guest of honor at the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.
© Agence France-Presse