February 6, 2024


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Modi-Biden meet: India, US and the China anxiety

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will not be in Delhi in person, but he will be on the India-US agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden meet ahead of the G20 summit. The two sides should take the opportunity to update each other on their recent interactions with China. This would help address concerns that persist in India about G2 (a Sino-US rapprochement), and in the US about A2 (a Sino-India deal as part of a broader Asia-for-Asians agreement). Left unaddressed, G2-A2 anxieties could exacerbate the reliability concerns in the India-US relationship and weigh down the partnership.

The G2-A2 concerns have reemerged for a few reasons. Indian observers have closely followed the trips to China by US cabinet members, working-level Sino-US discussions, and some tempering of the administration’s rhetoric on China. Some in the US, in turn, have warily watched high-level Sino-Indian meetings, border negotiations, the signalling from official Indian sources ahead of the BRICS and G20 summits, Delhi ’s agreement for the BRICS expansion, and the Modi-Xi exchange in Johannesburg.

These developments have led to similar apprehensions in each country about the other — that they portend a broader strategic reset with China, one that will leave partners high and dry. Commentators in the US and India have criticised the other country’s China outreach as signalling weakness or desperation. They are worried that to secure a dialogue with Xi, or stabilise ties for political or economic reasons, the US or India will make unilateral concessions to Beijing. In India, there’s related speculation about the Biden administration holding back on tougher export controls; in the US, about India not participating in Australia’s Talisman Sabre exercise as expected.