During their meeting, Modi and Biden will cover trade matters, jet engine discussions, and drone deals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden are set to engage in bilateral talks, with several significant topics on the agenda. The key issues include progress on the joint manufacture of jet engines in India, the procurement of MQ-9B armed drones, an agreement regarding civil nuclear liability, and trade matters. These discussions are slated to take place just before the G-20 summit.

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Further negotiations and deals are anticipated in January when President Biden is likely to visit India. Additionally, India is considering hosting the Quad leaders’ summit on January 26 or the day before, potentially with the leaders as chief guests.

High-tech collaboration under the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) will also be reviewed, building on announcements made during Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to Washington D.C. in June.

The meeting provides an opportunity for Modi and Biden to address various global issues, including the situation in Ukraine, U.S.-China relations, India-China relations, and the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Discussions will also encompass the India-U.S. nuclear deal, civil nuclear liability agreement, and announcements related to new investments.

Trade matters are expected to be a focal point, with the U.S. dropping most World Trade Organisation (WTO) cases against India in recent months and India reversing tariff increases on certain commodities. President Biden is particularly interested in India’s participation in the Indo-Pacific Economic Forum’s ‘Trade’ pillar, although India has remained cautious about joining.

Regarding the purchase of drones, the Defence Ministry plans to issue a Letter of Request (LoR) for the acquisition of 31 General Atomic MQ-9B armed drones, with the cost estimated at $3,072 million. The deal will proceed through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales route, with finalization expected in January during President Biden’s visit.

Despite eight years since the civil nuclear deal, cooperation between the two countries has faced challenges due to U.S. concerns over India’s nuclear liability law. To address this, the two nations recently announced cooperation on Small Modular Reactors.

In June, during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the U.S., General Electric (GE) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed an MOU to license manufacture the 414 jet engine in India, offering significant technology transfer. The first engine is expected to be ready three years after contract conclusion.

The proposal to license manufacture the General Electric F-414 jet engine cleared the U.S. Congress without objections. While an agreement on this matter is not expected to be reached this week, it is described as “under progress” and should be finalized soon.

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