A visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US later this month is likely to depend on the finality over hosting of the first in-person summit of the Quad leaders by the Biden administration, people familiar with the development said on Saturday.
The tentative schedule explored for the visit was between September 22-27 and the preparations were focused on three segments — Modi’s address at the UN General Assembly in New York, participation at the proposed Quad summit in Washington and a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden, they said.
However, the sudden decision by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to step down by the end of September triggered uncertainty over the US hosting of the in-person Quad summit as Tokyo is learnt to have requested for a hybrid format for the talks.
The people cited above said there was no final decision yet on the proposed visit to the US by Modi in view of the uncertainty over the holding of the Quad summit among the leaders of the US, India, Japan and Australia in Washington.
Suga, who became prime minister of Japan a year ago after Shinzo Abe stepped down, announced on Friday that he will not seek re-election as leader of the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) at the end of September.
His announcement and the political turmoil in Tokyo have also thrown into doubt the holding of the in-person India-Japan summit for the third consecutive year.
The annual summit between Modi and his then Japanese counterpart Abe was cancelled in December 2019 in Guwahati in the wake of massive protests rocking the Assam city over the amended citizenship law.
In 2020, the summit could not be held due to the coronovirus pandemic.
The people cited above said India and the US held a series of meetings as part of preparations for Modi’s visit to the US, which if it takes place, will be the first one after Biden took charge of the US in January.
It is learnt that the issue figured during Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s recent meetings in Washington.
The Biden administration has put cooperation with India a key aspect of its overall foreign policy priorities on the Indo-Pacific, a region that has witnessed growing Chinese military assertiveness.
The US has been looking at convening the in-person summit of the leaders of Quad to boost practical cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region as well as to send a strong signal about Washington’s commitment to the grouping.
In March, President Biden hosted the first-ever summit of the Quad leaders in the virtual format that vowed to strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion, sending an apparent message to China.
The last time Modi visited the US was in September 2019 when he and then US President Donald Trump addressed the Howdy Modi event in Houston.
If Modi’s visit takes place, then it could signal a new phase in the two-way strategic engagement between India and the US.
The Afghan crisis as well as developments in the Indo-Pacific region could be the major focus areas for discussion between the two sides. US Secretary of state Antony Blinken paid a two-day visit to India in July.
Before that, US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin had paid a three-day visit to New Delhi in March.