Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden will hold bilateral talks on September 8 in New Delhi, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed. Mr Biden, who is being closely watched for symptoms of COVID-19, after U.S. First Lady Jill Biden tested positive on Monday, tested negative and is still on track to travel to the capital for the G20 Summit, as per the White House.
In New Delhi, the U.S. will focus on “delivering for developing countries, making progress on key priorities for the American people from climate to technology, and showing our [its] commitment to the G 20,” Mr Sullivan told reporters at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
Mr Sullivan also said the U.S. welcomed the addition of the African Union as a new permanent member of the G20 and that scaling up and reshaping development banks and institutions (the World Bank and IMF) would also be a focus of the discussions this weekend. Mr Biden will call on G20 countries to provide debt relief for low and middle income countries , and play a constructive role in this, with “no exceptions” , Mr Sullivan said, presumably referring to China’s role as the world’s largest creditor.
Other global issues on the agenda at the G20, as per Mr Sullivan, include the inclusive digital transformation, the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), climate and digital technology and infrastructure investment.
Mr Biden will also call for a “just and durable peace” for Ukraine and respect for the United Nations Charter and international law, following Russia’s on-going invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the conference in New Delhi this weekend.
Joint Statement will be ‘Challenging’
Mr Sullivan acknowledged that getting consensus on a G20 statement on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was going to be “challenging” because Russia is a part of the G20 (albeit not at the New Delhi summit).
India’s G20 “sherpa” or top official, Amitabh Kant, is still hopeful of a joint declaration, the Financial Times reported earlier this week, despite objections by Beijing and Moscow on language around Ukraine, borrowed from last year’s G20 Bali summit. In July however, Mr Kant had said that the Russia-Ukraine was not a priority for India’s G20 presidency, but it was working instead on a Leaders’ Declaration focused on issues such as development, multilateral institutions and technological transformation.
Sullivan Reassures U.S. Press of Access in India
During Tuesday’s press briefing, Mr Sullivan assured the U.S. press of access during the G20 after he was asked if the press traveling with Mr Biden to Asia (India and then Vietnam), should expect challenges such as threats and restrictions.
“...We are putting our money where our mouth is in terms of making sure that the American press will have all the access that they need and are entitled to as members of the international press, as members of the White House press,” Mr Sullivan said, adding that Mr Biden had himself spoken about human rights and democracy “as recently as the state visit” [of Mr Modi to the U.S]