As a fasting Prime Minister Narendra Modi sipped warm water at a very “warm dinner” at the White House, US President Barack Obama wondered how his guest kept up a rigorous schedule on such a diet.
“It was a very warm dinner,” said US point person for South Asia Nisha Desai Biswal, who was also at Obama’s welcoming dinner for Modi.
“They joked about the fact that the rest were eating and the prime minister was fasting.
“And I think the President expressed admiration for the energy and the vigour with which the prime minister was able to maintain this rigorous schedule on a diet of only warm water,” she told reporters Thursday.
“And I think the President also expressed interest in having a conversation about yoga,” Biswal said. “And so I think that there were some of these very personal, very human moments of interaction.”
The fact that Obama went with Modi to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, “is indicative of just how comfortable they had gotten to be, I think,” said Phil Reiner, senior director for South Asia at the White House National Security Council.
“In the dinner itself, the President was able to look fondly back upon his time when he was in India with his family,” he said.
“I think there was some conversation about how enjoyable it was to be in India and to be able to dance.
“This was, I think, a very warm moment. I think that the prime minister remarked upon his time when he was back here in DC years ago,” Reiner said.
“They shared a lot of stories,” he said. “Probably the most interesting was they found a great deal of common experience when it comes to first coming into government and realizing just how bad government works.”
Reiner also assured that Modi’s personal gifts to Obama – a special khadi bound reprint of Mahatma Gandhi’s interpretation of Bhagavad Gita and memorabilia associated with King – “were very warmly received”.
“I think these again show an indication of the history and connectivity that we have between our two countries,” he said.
“And historical connection and the deep thought you could tell that was put in to those gifts, I thought was very strong.”
Obama in turn gifted Modi a rare book, “The World’s Congress: Religions at the World’s Columbian Exposition” on the 1893 summit of world religions where Swami Vivekananda made a mark.
“In terms of the gift that we provided, it was, I thought, an incredible one in terms of it pointing again to that history and that connection,” Reiner said.