New Delhi (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for the U.S. on Tuesday on a state visit that has been projected as a milestone in ties between the two countries that would deepen and diversify their partnership.
Modi has been to the U.S. five times since becoming prime minister in 2014 but the June 21-24 trip will be his first with the full diplomatic status of an official state visit.
It is also only the third state visit of Joe Biden’s presidency and the third by an Indian leader to the U.S., indicating the strengthening bond between Washington and New Delhi and the distance they have travelled since being on opposite sides of the Cold War.
The visit is expected to see the two countries expand cooperation in defence industry and high technology sectors, with India getting access to critical American technologies that Washington rarely shares with non-allies.
“This special invitation is a reflection of the vigour and vitality of the partnership between our democracies,” Modi said in a statement ahead of his departure.
“I will also meet some of the leading CEOs to discuss opportunities for elevating our trade and investment relationship and for building resilient global supply chains,” he said.
Washington sees India as a vital partner in its efforts to push back against China’s expanding influence worldwide.
It hopes that a stronger India that can defend its own interests and can contribute to regional security in the Indo-Pacific is good for the United States.
U.S. lawmakers have invited Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress. It will be Modi’s second such address, a rare honour for a leader once denied a visa to enter the United States over human rights concerns.
Tesla (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk is among business leaders Modi is scheduled to meet during the trip, Reuters TV partner ANI reported.
Senior Tesla officials met India’s deputy minister for technology and other officials last month, making clear the electric vehicle manufacturer’s ambitious plans to establish a production base in India.
The officials held discussions with the government about incentives being offered by India for car and battery manufacturing and proposed setting up a factory in India to build electric vehicles, Reuters reported in May.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment while India’s foreign ministry was not available.
Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Monday that details of Modi’s meetings in Washington would be shared as the visit unfolds.
Musk is also the executive chairman of Twitter, which has had run-ins with Modi’s government.
Last week, Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey said India threatened to shut down the platform in the country unless it complied with orders to restrict accounts critical of the handling of farmer protests, a charge Modi’s government called an “outright lie”.
Modi’s visit comes amid differences in the positions of Washington and New Delhi over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
India has not condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine and urged both sides to resolve their differences through diplomacy.
It remains dependent on old friend Moscow for its defence needs and has sharply increased its imports of cheap Russian oil, frustrating the West.
Asked in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about critical comments in the U.S. for not taking a more forceful stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Modi said: “I don’t think this type of perception is widespread in the U.S.”
“I think India’s position is well known and well understood in the entire world. The world has full confidence that India’s top-most priority is peace,” he said in the interview published on Tuesday.
Modi called for changes to global institutions like the United Nations to adapt for an increasingly “multipolar world order”, and make them more representative of the world’s less-affluent countries, the Wall Street Journal said.
India would like to be a permanent member of the Security Council, he said.
“The world should be asked if it wants India to be there,” Modi said.