Once shunned by America, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the guest of honour at a private dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama ahead of their formal summit Tuesday to reset stalled India-US relations.
As Modi, fasting for the Hindu festival of Navratri, sat down with Obama in the Blue Room of the president’s house, the White House released a vision statement for the US-India Strategic Partnership: “Chalein saath saath: Forward together we go”.
“As leaders of two great democratic nations with diverse traditions and faiths, we share a vision for a partnership in which the United States and India work together, not just for the benefit of both our nations, but for the benefit of the world,” it said.
The statement seemed to echo just what Modi had suggested earlier Monday in an address at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York.
India and US should think of what they can do together for the whole world even as they agree to disagree on some issues, he said in response to a question about his comfort level with India-US strategic partnership.
The two nations do not have to be comfortable with all aspects of their partnership as even in a husband and a wife relationship there is “never 100 percent comfort” yet the two are bound in a long-term commitment,” Modi quipped.
While the dinner was closed press, White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated that at their bilateral meeting Tuesday, “the two leaders will discuss a range of issues of mutual interest in order to expand and deepen the US-India strategic partnership”.
“They will discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, bolster security cooperation, and collaborate in activities that bring long-term benefits to both countries and the world,” he said.
“They will also focus on regional issues, including current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, where India and the United States can work together with partners toward a positive outcome,” Earnest said.
Obama looks forward to working with Modi “to fulfill the promise of the US-India strategic partnership for the benefit of both our citizens and the world”, he said.
Earlier, at the White House briefing, when asked about the most important narrative focus of the Obama administration, he said it was hard to identify just one as the two governments interacted on so many issues.
“Whether it’s security cooperation or economic cooperation, even agreements related to reducing the causes of climate change, that we’re confident that we can advance the ball down the field by working closely
with our counterparts in India,” he added.
Since it would be the first meeting between the two leaders, Earnest said: “This will be an important opportunity for them to spend some time talking about the relationship between our two countries.”
The US certainly valued its strong relationship with India “and the president wants to make sure that we continue that strong relationship between our two countries”, he said.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said discussions with Modi would cover the full range of bilateral issues, such as partnering with India on its economic goals and objectives, including its priorities in infrastructure, manufacturing, and skills.
They will also discuss how US can continue efforts to removing impediments to expanding bilateral trade to $500 billion annually.
Other topics will include India’s energy security, including the use of clean energy and clean technology and how the US can partner with Modi on his domestic objectives for India, including his focus on sustainable development for all Indians, sanitation and security and defence.
Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who will participate in the summit will later host a lunch Tuesday at the US State Department with members of Congress, the private sector, and the Indian American diaspora.