Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with the U.S. President Joseph Biden and also exchanged words with Chinese President Xi Jinping -- their first such meeting in three years -- on the sidelines of the G-20 summit on November 15, 2022. On November 16, 2022, Mr. Modi is expected to hold more structured, bilateral meetings with at least eight of the 16 leaders present in Bali for the annual meeting of the world’s most advanced economies, including his first such interaction with the U.K.’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian PM Giorgia Meloni.
The PM’s meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Bali was remarkable, given that Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi had not had any public interaction at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit at Samarkand in September, despite standing next to each other during the joint photo call. The two leaders had last held a bilateral meeting in November 2019. They have not publicly spoken at all since the April 2020 standoff at the Line of Actual Control and the killing of soldiers at Galwan in June that year.
At the G-20 Leaders banquet however, PM Modi was seen standing up from the dinner table where he was seated next to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and turning around to greet the Chinese President as he walked in. Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi then shook hands and spoke to each other, with their translators attending. The MEA did not respond to requests for a readout of the conversation, but sources said the two leaders had just “exchanged courtesies at the conclusion of the dinner”.
Mr. Modi also held a “pull-aside” meeting with Mr. Biden at the Nusa Dua convention centre in Bali, on the margins of the G-20 sessions, officials said.
Deepening Indo-U.S. partnership
“[PM Modi and President Biden] reviewed the continuing deepening of the India-U.S. strategic partnership including cooperation in future oriented sectors like critical and emerging technologies, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, etc.”, said the MEA in a statement, adding that they had also discussed cooperation in groupings like the Quad, and I2U2 (India-Israel-UAE-US partnership) during the meeting.
“The two leaders discussed topical global and regional developments,” the MEA said, without giving any details of the discussions, if any, on the differences between India and the U.S. over the Russian war in Ukraine. “PM Modi thanked President Biden for his constant support for strengthening the India-U.S. partnership. He expressed confidence that both countries would continue to maintain close coordination during India’s G-20 Presidency,” the statement added.
A U.S. White House statement said that President Biden had met PM Modi and President Widodo together “to reaffirm their shared commitment to the G20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation,” but didn’t refer to bilateral issues with India.
On Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo will hand over the G-20 process to Mr. Modi, and India will formally assume its presidency from December 1 this year. After the final G-20 sessions, Mr. Modi will hold separate bilateral meetings with at least eight leaders, beginning with Mr. Widodo, followed by Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez, French President Emmanuel Macron, Singapore’s PM Lee Hsein Loong, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian PM Giorgia Melon (who was elected in September), Australian PM Anthony Albanese, and the U.K.’s PM Rishi Sunak (who was appointed less than a month ago). Mr. Modi is expected to leave for Delhi after his meetings in Bali.
Mr. Modi’s meeting with Mr. Widodo is expected to focus on India-Indonesia cooperation during the next year of India’s presidency, and a number of bilateral issues including increasing trade and investment on both sides, as well as a long-pending deal for India to develop Indonesia’s western-most Sabang port. Speaking to The Hindu ahead of the G-20 summit, Indonesian Ambassador Ina Krisnamurthi said that trade between the two countries was “hampered” by India’s decision to stay out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and could increase from the present levels of about $21 billion if the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) completes a review.
“We want to see how best to review the FTA that ASEAN and India have because as of now the benefit of it is very minimal. And we keep pushing for a review, but now it is time [to complete the review] because we have elevated the ASEAN-India relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Ms. Krisnamurthi said.
Mr. Modi is also expected to discuss the India-U.K. FTA negotiations, which had missed a deadline last month due to the changes in the U.K.’s leadership. In his first meeting with Mr. Sunak as PM, Mr. Modi is expected to discuss plans to visit the U.K., and to invite him, the first British PM of Indian-African origin, to India.
In talks with European leaders from France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the issue of the Ukraine war is expected to be on the agenda, given that the European Union is getting ready to drastically cut its oil purchases from Russia in December, and has asked for India and other countries to support an oil price cap on Russia.