India Rejected US Requests For More Media Access For PM Modi And Joe Biden's Bilateral Meeting: White House

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised nationally and internationally for not taking questions from the press since taking office in 2014.

PM Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden meeting in Japan on Quad sidelines

The Joe Biden administration requested repeatedly for increased media access for the bilateral meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit on Friday, but the Government of India rejected those requests, according to the White House. 

Biden is visiting India to attend the G-20 Summit. After arriving in New Delhi on Friday evening, he would hold a bilateral meeting with Modi at the Prime Minister's Residence on the Lok Kalyan Marg ahead of the Summit meeting. There will be no press conference. 

The White House also said that the India also denied the US requests to throw in a 'press pool spray', an arrangement common when the President of the United States hosts foreign leader at the White House. 

Since taking over as the Prime Minister of India in 2014, Modi has been criticised nationally and internationally for avoiding taking questions for the press. Except for occasional interviews, he has not held a single press conference. The only time in the nine years that he took questions from the press was during the joint press conference with Biden during his state visit in June. 

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Thursday that India is hosting the meeting and is making arrangements and press engagement is not part of the protocol India has set in place. 

"This meeting will be taking place at the prime minister’s residence, so, it is unusual in that respect – this is not your typical bilateral visit to India, with meetings taking place in the prime minister’s office and an entire program. This is the host of the G20 hosting a significant number of leaders, doing so in his home, and he set out the protocols he set out," said Sullivan, as per CNN.

Sullivan further said the Biden administration pushed for a press pool spray but the requests were not accepted by the Modi government. The press pool spray refers to the access of a pool of reporters to the two leaders at the venue right before the meeting with camera and microphones. The purpose of the pool spray is to grant the leaders publicity with opening remarks and also grant the media the opportunity to ask questions. The leaders are at the liberty to take questions of their choice since it is an informal press interaction and not a formal press conference. Such press pool sprays frequently happen at the White House's Oval Office where the President of the United States often hosts foreign leaders.

Separately, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that the Biden administration was "doing our darndest, doing our best" to ensure media access to the president during his visit to India.

Jean-Pierre further said that the administration pushed at multiple levels to ensure more media access but it did not work out.

"We have reached out, we have made the request multiple times and at different pressure points, if you will – the NSC level, comms level, the folks on the ground who are doing a lot of hard work on the ground to make sure that this trip, not just for the president, for all of you, for all of us, is smooth. And so, it’s been happening, we’ve been doing the work. I mean I would leave it to – I would leave it to the Indian government to speak for themselves. Look, we are all trying to do our best, at the behest of the president, to get this done – and so we’re gonna keep working on it," said Jean-Pierre, as per CNN.

Biden will not address the press in Delhi, but will hold a press conference in Vietnam where he will go after Delhi.

Jean-Pierre said, "It was just logistically easier to do it – and it wouldn’t change anything, because it would have just been the president doing a solo press conference. So instead of doing it in India, he’s going to be doing it in Vietnam, that doesn’t change anything at all."

Besides the meeting with Modi, Biden is not expected to have any other bilateral meeting. The White House has said that there could be informal interactions with leaders on the margins or pull-aside kind of conversations, but the schedule is not expected to allow for a proper bilateral sit-down