WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama will seek to leverage his burgeoning bond with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi into progress on climate change, defence and economic ties as he opens a three-day visit to New Delhi.
Relations between the US and India have been strained in recent years, but Obama and Modi developed a good rapport during a visit in Washington last fall. Modi sought to return the favor by inviting Obama to travel to India as his guest for the annual Republic Day festivities, which mark the day in 1950 that the country’s constitution came into force.
“It took us by some surprise,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “There’s a great affinity between the United States and India and our people, but there’s also a history that is complicated and that would have made it seem highly unlikely that a US president would be sitting with India’s leaders at their Republic Day ceremony.”
After some internal deliberations, the White House accepted Modi’s offer. The visit also includes a fresh round of bilateral meetings with Modi, an economic summit with US and Indian business leaders and a visit to India’s famed Taj Mahal.
Obama will be the first US president to visit India twice while in office; he also traveled there in 2010 for an economic summit. First lady Michelle Obama will be with the president when he arrives in New Delhi on Sunday.