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Biden and Modi Meet to Launch G20 Summit in India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi literally rolled out the red carpet for President Biden as he arrived at a G20 summit in New Delhi that will focus on the war in Ukraine and other global challenges.

Men in blue vests wheeled out the decorous welcome mat for Mr. Biden as he disembarked Air Force One and headed to Mr. Modi’s residence for a bilateral meeting that lasted just shy of an hour and addressed issues in space, microchips, and Mr. Biden’s “moonshot” to tackle cancer.

Kurt Campbell, the deputy assistant to the president, described the U.S.-India relationship as one of “undeniable warmth and confidence” while acknowledging that Mr. Biden is pushing India to defend press freedoms and democratic principles.

Mr. Modi has bristled at the idea he is falling short on those fronts, declaring at a White House news conference in June there is “no discrimination” based on race or faith as critics question his treatment of religious minorities and the press.

“I don’t think many of you believed that there would be a press conference in Washington, D.C., and there was. We have insisted on a number of things and I think we’ve seen evidence of that,” Mr. Campbell told traveling reporters. “There are a number of things in India that we believe are quite strong and healthy. And there are other issues that frankly, we continue to have dialogue over. I think … India continues to be a work in progress.”

The route to Mr. Modi’s house Friday was lined with billboards, including a digital one that had footage of Mr. Modi and Mr. Biden hugging at a White House state dinner. One giant sign said “Nameste,” which in Hindu is a respectful greeting.

Looking ahead, the White House says Mr. Biden does not plan to meet in India with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, who is at the G20 summit in place of President Xi Jinping.

“We don’t have a plan for the president to engage with the Chinese premier this weekend at this time,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters late Thursday on the Air Force One flight to New Delhi.

Mr. Sullivan had been asked whether Mr. Biden would bring up a Wall Street Journal report that said Chinese people have tried to gain access to U.S. military installations by posing as tourists.

“We take the security of our installations extremely seriously against any form of threat, and we will continue to do that,” Mr. Sullivan said, before revealing the lack of a meeting with Mr. Li.

Mr. Sullivan said the two leaders have not spoken to each other directly since the fall 2022 G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Mr. Biden earlier this week said he was disappointed that Mr. Xi would not attend the summit, though it does offer an opportunity for the president to interact with other nations who are skeptical of Beijing’s influence.

Russia is also boycotting the summit as the West condemns President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

“I think it is a disappointment for India that Russia and China aren’t here,” Mr. Campbell said.

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