Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday left for the US to attend the first in-person Quad Summit and hold face-to-face talks with President Joe Biden in Washington DC.
The Quad, acronym for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is an informal strategic group of four nations -- the US, Australia, Japan and India. The Quad was formed in 2007 as a counterbalance to China in Asia.
In his departure statement, the Indian PM said that his meeting with President Biden, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and PM Yoshihide Suga of Japan would provide an opportunity to take stock of the outcomes of a virtual summit in March.
"My visit to the US would be an occasion to strengthen the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with USA, consolidate relations with our strategic partners - Japan and Australia - and to take forward our collaboration on important global issues."
Modi added: "I will also meet Prime Minister Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Suga of Japan to take stock of the strong bilateral relations with their respective countries and continue our useful exchanges on regional and global issues."
The meeting of the Quad leaders is slated for September 24 in Washington DC amid the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after the return of the Taliban.
During his three-day US visit, Modi is also scheduled to meet President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and also address the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 25 in New York.
"At the invitation of @POTUS @JoeBiden, I am visiting USA to continue our dialogue, and exchange views on areas of mutual interest. Also looking forward to meet @VP @KamalaHarris to discuss global issues and explore ideas for cooperation...," the Indian PM said in a separate tweet.
About his UN General Assembly address, Modi said he would focus on "pressing global challenges", such as the pandemic, and the need to tackle terrorism and climate change.
The Indian PM's visit to the US comes over a month after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. In fact, India was among several countries that evacuated their diplomatic staff from Kabul when the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15.
However, two weeks later, India began direct communication with the Taliban, with the country's envoy in Qatar Deepak Mittal holding talks with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban's Political Office in the Gulf state.
At the meeting, Ambassador Mittal had raised India's concern that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner, to which Stanekzai assured him that these issues would be positively addressed, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.
"Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India also came up."
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan on August 15, with the US troops ending their 20-year military presence in the South Asian country.
India is particularly worried about the implications of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, given it has already infused over three billion USD worth development aid into that country and the horrific memories of the Taliban's role in the hijacking of an Indian airliner in 1999.