President Joe Biden used the decision by Chinese and Russian leaders to skip this weekend’s G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi, India, to greet his closest friends on the world stage.
Biden arrived at the Bharat Mandapam Convention Center on Saturday morning and was greeted by host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shaking and then holding Modi’s hand as he entered the complex.
Biden was seen laughing with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and spent time with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the opening session began.
The leaders of Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and Nigeria also praised Biden. Indonesian President Joko Widodo shared a long embrace with Biden before taking his seat.
The president sat four seats away from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the White House remaining coy on whether the two would meet on the sidelines of the summit.
President Joe Biden (left) arrives at the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi on Saturday, shaking and holding hands with host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right)
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) laughs with President Joe Biden (right) at the G20 leaders’ summit on Saturday.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) pats President Joe Biden (right) on the shoulder as he arrives at the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi, India, on Saturday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman (left) as he arrives at Saturday’s G20 meeting.
White House officials spent the morning and Friday evening bashing China for playing truant.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the meeting of the world’s major economies.
Putin sent Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, in his place.
Senior Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said Saturday morning that “really, the onus is on the Chinese government to explain why any leader would participate or not.”
It was unclear whether Modi expressed displeasure over the absences of Xi and Putin during his meeting with Biden on Friday evening – the first meeting of the US president’s trip, but the National Security Council coordinator for Indo- Pacific, Kurt Campbell, told reporters afterward that he felt the Indians were upset.
“I think it’s a disappointment for India that Russia and China are not there,” he told reporters at a press briefing Friday evening.
“And the fact that the United States, probably the country with which India has invested the most in deepening and developing its relations, showed up and is engaged in all the major initiatives that will be rolled out over the next few days, was both reassuring and gratifying for the Indian interlocutors and this did not escape us,” he also declared.
Last week, China and India clashed diplomatically over an “official map” issued by China that claimed land along the Himalayas that Indian officials say belongs to them.
Xi sent Premier Li Qiang in his place.
The president arrived in India on Friday evening, where he was greeted by the US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and his daughter Maya.
Biden leaned down to talk to Maya, then was treated to a brief dance number by an Indian dance troupe positioned on a makeshift stage outside the airport terminal.
They danced to a version of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You.
Biden then traveled in a motorcade to Modi’s residence, where American journalists were waiting outside in vans – with no access to toilets.
Access to the press was one of the thorny issues of the summit, which is taking place in the capital of what is called “the largest democracy in the world”.
During the flight, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan highlighted the unique venue where the first summit meeting between Biden and Modi was held.
“This meeting will take place at the prime minister’s residence,” Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One. “So it’s unusual in that regard.”
However, he said the White House lobbied the Indian government for press access – and was denied it.
Subsequently, Campbell called India a “work in progress” on various democratic freedoms, including freedom of the press.
“And I think the key here is for us to maintain a respectful dialogue and approach some of the challenges with the degree of humility given some of the challenges that we also face in our own country,” Campbell said.
On Saturday, only two American journalists – a writer and a photographer – were allowed access to the opening session of the G20.
While Modi spoke in Hindi, the American journalist did not receive the device allowing simultaneous translation.
Finer said Saturday that Biden raised unspecified democracy issues during his conversation with Modi.
Finer was asked whether Biden had criticized Modi for bulldozing slums before the summit, leaving crowds of poor people homeless in an effort to beautify the city for visiting world leaders.
City officials also disbursed street dogs and monkeys ahead of the summit.
City residents were urged to take vacations, leaving streets empty and shops closed, paving the way for motorcades to travel along traffic-free roads.
On Saturday’s agenda, the White House is set to tout a new maritime and rail corridor project it describes as “revolutionary,” with the prospect of bringing more stability to the turbulent Middle East region. East by connecting regional economies more closely.
The project is a new rail transport corridor that would include the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union – although it is not really “shovel ready”, the leaders set to announce only a “memorandum of understanding”. ‘ above.
Finer told traveling journalists in New Delhi on Saturday that it could help “lower the temperature” on “turmoil and insecurity” coming from the Middle East.
“This will be a clear demonstration of a new model that President Biden has pioneered for more transparent and sustainable development, sustainable, high-level infrastructure that fills a damaged void and enables greater prosperity and connectivity for key regions of the world,” he said. .
The inclusion of Saudi Arabia could create the ideal conditions for Biden and MBS to speak out.
On the table is potentially a “mega-deal” between Saudi Arabia and the United States that could lead to a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
This would be a historic step forward for peace in the Middle East.
Civil servants told Axios last month as the administration attempts to complete its diplomatic efforts before the 2024 presidential election.
Although these sources emphasized how Biden’s re-election campaign was going to take a long time, relations with Saudi Arabia are not popular in much of the United States.
In addition to the poor treatment of women in the country, there was the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
And the timing of an MBS meeting could also be tricky for Biden – who decided to skip traditional 9/11 ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Monday’s terrorist attacks in Alaska as he returned from India and Vietnam .
Families of 9/11 victims have been attacking the Saudi government for years, as 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers were Saudis.