The White House announced on Thursday evening that despite repeated requests from the administration for increased press access, reporters accompanying President Joe Biden to India for this week's G20 summit will not have the chance to pose questions to President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting in New Delhi, CNN reported on Friday.
US National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday, “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," he said.
In a subsequent interaction, Sullivan informed reporters that, naturally, the administration advocated for a pool spray of the meeting, following the customary practice when President Biden hosts leaders at the White House. He lightheartedly remarked, “We spend our lives asking for pool sprays and other things” for reporters.
In June, during a state visit, PM Modi consented to engage in a press conference at the White House following extensive and sensitive negotiations between the two parties. At the outset, Indian officials hesitated in response to the White House's firm stance on organizing such an event, as disclosed by two individuals acquainted with U.S. officials' perspectives, as reported by CNN.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre informed reporters on Thursday that the administration was putting forth its utmost effort to guarantee media access to the president during his trip to India for the summit.
A multitude of officials, including Sullivan, White House communications director Ben LaBolt, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, and deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell, all reached out to their Indian counterparts in an attempt to advocate for increased press access during the visit. However, it appears their efforts were unsuccessful.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Instead of addressing reporters after the conclusion of the summit in New Delhi, President Biden will hold a news conference in Vietnam, a decision the White House explained as being more logistically convenient for the president to field questions from reporters.
Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “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."
Despite President Biden's meeting with Prime Minister Modi, there are unlikely to be many formal engagements with other world leaders during the G20 summit, according to National Security Adviser Sullivan.
“I can’t confirm any (bilateral meetings), and to be honest with you, I think you will not see, because of the way the schedule was structured, a significant number of formal engagements with other leaders,” he said. “I think most of the work that he’s going to do with a number of significant heads of state and government over the course of the 48 hours he’s in Delhi will be more informal, on the margins, not formal sit down bilats, so I don’t have any bilats to announce today.”