Biden isn’t aiming to paper over the fractures during his time in New Delhi. But with an eye toward countering China, he does hope to convince a splintered world the United States remains a committed and valuable partner.
He arrives as polling in the United States shows strong headwinds in his bid for reelection; a CNN survey released the day of his departure showed two-thirds of Democrat-leaning voters don’t want Biden as the 2024 nominee.
Biden’s advisers believe his activities on the global stage can help provide a contrast with Republicans, and his campaign released a television ad Thursday highlighting his visit to Ukraine earlier this year.
But Biden’s shaky political standing has nonetheless left fellow leaders, particularly in Europe, wondering what the next year will portend and whether Biden’s pledges of a robust US role in the world will be sustained.
In New Delhi, Biden is hoping to make the argument that the United States can act as a better partner for developing countries than China. He has an unexpected opening to make his case: Chinese President Xi Jinping is skipping this weekend’s summit, his first time missing a G20 since taking office in 2012.
While that is a lost opportunity in some ways – Biden and Xi met for hours at last year’s G20 in Bali – it also frees the stage for the US to make its argument for American partnerships.
At a moment when the very fragile state of China’s economy is causing deep concern about global ripple effects, Biden hopes to use the relative strength of the American market to make his pitch.
He isn’t arriving empty handed. He comes armed with proposals to reform and step up investments in the World Bank, leveraging US funds to free up hundreds of billions of dollars in new grants and loans for the developing world.
The White House insists the steps are not about countering Beijing.
“It’s not just a question of responding to China, it’s a question of addressing long standing global challenges, reducing poverty,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at a morning briefing in New Delhi.
Still, the White House has argued institutions like the World Bank can provide an alternative to what they say are China’s coercive lending practices.
Ahead of Biden’s arrival, officials were hurriedly working to draft joint declarations that could be signed off on by the summit’s end. But the talks have been difficult, according to diplomats, and reflected the wide divides within the G20 over the most contentious global issues.
“So, I understand that this is challenging to craft such language, but I know the negotiators are discussing it, and working hard to do so and we stand ready certainly to work with India to try to craft a communique that successfully addresses this concern,” Yellen told reporters.
While Biden has been successful in rallying support in the West for Ukraine, he hasn’t necessarily been as persuasive among leaders in the so-called Global South, including India, Brazil and South Africa.
Failure to agree on shared language could prove a major disappointment for the host of this year’s summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has worked to center the discussions here on the developing world but also bolster his stature as global statesman.
Modi’s face has been plastered around New Delhi welcoming delegates to the G20 and announcing the theme: “One Earth, One Family, One Future.”
Biden’s first order of business upon arriving will be a one-on-one with Modi at his residence. Biden has sought to fully embrace India as one of the most critical partnerships for the US in the 21st century and a key regional ally to counter China.
The White House still harbors deep concerns about Modi’s record on human rights and what many view as democratic backsliding in India, including restrictions on the press.
As Biden was flying to New Delhi, officials aboard Air Force One said India had rebuffed US requests for any press access to the two leaders’ meeting.