| Darlene Superville |
WASHINGTON (AP) – When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets President Barack Obama for the first time at the White House, the welcome will be very different from the response Modi got nearly a decade ago when he wanted to visit the US as his visa request was denied.
But his election in May as the new leader of the world’s largest democracy has transformed Modi into a welcome visitor. The two leaders will first break the ice over dinner Monday as they seek to reinvigorate soured relations between their countries.
Obama’s courtship of Modi continues Tuesday with an Oval Office meeting, marking a rare second day of attention from Obama.
During their talks, Obama and Modi will focus on economic growth and cooperation on security, clean energy, climate change and other issues, the White House said.
They will also address regional concerns, including Afghanistan, where the US is wrapping up its 13-year military involvement, and Syria and Iraq, where the US is ramping up its military engagement as Obama builds an international coalition to target Islamic State militants operating in the both countries.
Obama visited India in 2010 and held up the US-India relationship as the “defining partnership” of the 21st Century.
But the relationship has been lukewarm at best. While military cooperation and US defence sales have grown, the economic relationship has been rockier, with Washington frustrated by India’s failure to open its economy to more foreign investment and address complaints over intellectual property violations.
Modi arrived in the US on Friday and delivered his first address to the UN General Assembly on Saturday.
Before heading for Washington, Modi addressed a sold-out audience of more than 18,000 people, mostly Indian-Americans, at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday. He called on Indians living abroad to “join hands to serve our mother India”. About 30 US lawmakers attended the event.
Besides joining Obama for dinner, Modi is also scheduled to attend a State Department lunch Tuesday with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
But there is one small issue: Modi is fasting to honour the Hindu goddess Durga and is consuming only water or lemon-flavoured water.
The White House says his dietary needs will be accommodated.