The meeting between Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes at an important time, said Milan Vaishnav, director and senior fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“India is anxious about regional security in the wake of America’s Afghanistan exit,” Vaishnav pointed out in conversation with indica News.
“The United States, United Kingdom and Australia have signaled a new alliance that would provide nuclear submarines to Australia. And, lest we forget, the world is still struggling to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. While no major deliverables are expected from this summit, it is an important opportunity for leaders of the two countries to discuss pressing issues.”
In an hour-long talk with Modi, Harris “suo motu” — Latin for on one’s own — referred to Pakistan’s role in terrorism and asked the country to stop supporting terror groups, Indian foreign secretary Harsh V Shringla said.
During the press briefing on the first day of Modi’s three-day Washington visit, Shringla had been asked whether the issue of Pakistan emboldening the Taliban came up during the discussion between Vice President Harris and Prime Minister Modi.
“She said that there were terror groups that were working there. She asked Pakistan to take action, So that, these groups do not impact US security and that of India,” Shringla said.
Asked if this meeting and this visit would make India a US ally, Vaishnav replied in the negative.
“India has no interest in a formal alliance arrangement with the United States or with any country for that matter,” Vaishnav said. “This is a longstanding principle of Indian foreign policy. India has partnerships with trusted countries, and the United States certainly ranks high on that list.”
On India’s list of things to discuss with the US, the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is likely to figure.
Will the US unleash the CAATSA if India buys the S-400 missile system from its old ally Russia?
“I’d put it this way: there is no active desire in the United States to sanction India, a key strategic partner,” Vaishnav said. “However, the law is the law and the US administration will have to find a workaround — if India goes through with its purchase of the S-400 system. The Biden administration has continued to make clear it does not support the deal
Another unknown factor is how hard the Biden administration would nudge — if it does — the Modi government on the perceived record on human rights. The optics of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit have been signature Modi, with him shown walking with American leaders.
At the start of his meeting with Harris, Modi highlighted that India and America are “natural partners” and said India and the US have similar values, geopolitical interests, and our coordination and cooperation is also increasing.
In June this year, Modi had over phone discussed with Harris the American strategy for global vaccine sharing and the Quad vaccine initiative to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shringla at the media briefing highlighted anticipation from the first face-to-face official meeting after President Joe Biden took office. Prime Minister Modi and President Biden, he said, would review “robust and multifaceted” India-US bilateral ties.