WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday joined top American and Indian executives in talks to increase cooperation between the two countries on artificial intelligence, semiconductor production and space.
On the final day of Modi's four-day state visit, the leaders put a spotlight on the “Innovation Handshake," a new initiative aimed at addressing regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of partnership between the two countries.
“Our countries are taking innovation and cooperation to new levels,” Biden told the group, which included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “We’re going to see more technological change … in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years.”
White House officials say India's deep talent pool will be crucial in building more resilient supply chains and developing technology to address climate change. All this comes as the administration has sought to put the U.S.-India relationship on a higher plane in the face of an ascendant China in the Indo-Pacific.
Modi commended Biden for seeing “the possibility that India represents.”
As part of Modi's state's visit — the first by an Indian leader since Manmohan Singh in 2009 — the two leaders announced several major investments by U.S.-based companies in India.
Micron Technology has agreed to build a $2.75 billion semiconductor assembly and test facility in India, with Micron spending more than $800 million and India financing the rest. U.S.-based Applied Materials will launch a new semiconductor center for commercialization and innovation in India, and Lam Research, another semiconductor manufacturing equipment company, will start a training program for 60,000 Indian engineers.
On the space front, India signed on to the Artemis Accords, a blueprint for space exploration cooperation among nations participating in NASA’s lunar exploration plans. NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization also agreed to make a joint mission to the International Space Station next year.
Earlier this year, the two countries launched the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies, which sets the path for collaboration on semiconductor production, developing artificial intelligence, and a loosening of export control rules. The initiative was critical in sealing a deal, announced Thursday, that will allow U.S.-based General Electric to partner with India's Hindustan Aeronautics to produce jet engines in India.
Despite all the deal-making and the free-flowing praise between the leaders, Modi's visit was accompanied by controversy over India's erosion of religious, press and political freedoms under his watch.
Human rights activists and some U.S. lawmakers had objected to the administration’s decision to honor Modi with a state visit. In an address to Congress and comments to the press, the prime minister pushed back against the notion that India has turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of its minority communities.
India has “proved that democracies can deliver and when I say deliver, this is regardless of class, creed, religion, gender," Modi declared.
But at Friday’s White House press briefing, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby did not directly answer whether Biden was satisfied with Modi’s comments on human rights.
“The president was satisfied that he had the opportunity to discuss concerns over human rights with Prime Minister Modi," he said.
Later at a State Department luncheon hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was Indian, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S.-India relationship was celebrated further, and without reservation.
Blinken noted that Modi first came to the U.S. 30 years ago on a State Department exchange program and had been inspired by the “boldness” of America’s ambitions.
“We are working more closely on more issues than ever before,” Blinken said. “The energy, ambition and potential of our cooperation is boundless. The United States and India have become, as the prime minister said, indispensable partners.”
Harris said that her Indian grandfather, a retired government civil servant who took her on long walks with his friends when she visited, had interested her in a public service career.
“Stories about the freedom fighters and the nation’s founding heroes and about the independence of India,” she recalled. “I remember them talking about the importance of fighting corruption and fighting for equality regardless of one’s belief or caste." These lessons "first inspired my interest in public service.”
Modi said the U.S. and India have been on “a long and beautiful journey” with unprecedented cooperation in defense and strategic areas as well as new trust in resolving longstanding trade issues.
He ended the trip with a triumphant speech to an auditorium of Indian-American business leaders. With Blinken sitting nearby, Modi recounted the trip's successes and highlighted ongoing agreements for India to purchase U.S.-made planes and helicopters.
He said the U.S.-India defense partnership had “reached new heights” during his visit, to the happiness of both sides.
“When I spoke to Congress about this, there was no stopping the applause in the chamber,” he said.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.