Indian PM Modi to meet CEOs as Washington visit concludes


Washington (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet U.S. and Indian business leaders in Washington on Friday, the final day of a state visit marked by pledges of deeper U.S.-India cooperation on areas including space, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet for Modi on Thursday, declaring after about 2 -1/2 hours of talks that their countries’ economic relationship was “booming.” Trade has more than doubled over the past decade.

Modi will continue talks with top U.S. officials during 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.

The Indian leader, who has appealed to global companies to “Make in India,” will then 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), and representatives of Indian companies such as Tech Mahindra (TEML.NS) and Mastek (MAST.NS) 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.

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 a deteriorating human rights situation in India under Modi, citing allegations of abuse of Indian dissidents and minorities, especially Muslims.

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.

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