NEW DELHI: Describing America as India’s “vital partner”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday embarked on his first visit to the US confident that his five-day trip will mark a “new chapter” in bilateral strategic ties.
As Modi seeks to promote India as open for business and to mend ties with the US after a bitter diplomatic row last year, Modi said he was looking forward to meeting President Barack Obama in Washington over two days.
The Prime Minister said he will discuss with Obama how Indo-US ties can be taken to a “new level” in the interest of the two countries as well as of the world.
Obama will host a rare private dinner for Modi at the White House on September 29, so as to establish a personal relationship with the Indian leader ahead of summit talks the next day. The two leaders are meeting for the first time.
The Prime Minister is expected to have only tea and lemonade at the dinner as his US visit coincides with the Navratri fast which he religiously observes every year.
“I will discuss with President Obama how we can use the strength of all that we share and all that we have built so far to take our relationship to a new level in the interest of our two countries and the cause of this world. I am confident that the visit will mark the start of a new chapter in our strategic partnership,” he said in a statement before he took off on a special Air India plane.
Modi will have a stopover in Frankfurt tonight and will reach New York tomorrow and later proceed to Washington on 29th September.
“I see the United States as a vital partner for our national development, drawing especially on the rich possibilities of partnership in education, skills, research, technology and innovation and, above all, a shared commitment to human values.
Working together, and with others, we can bridge the many divisions of our times and contribute to building a more peaceful, stable, secure, sustainable and prosperous world,” the Prime Minister said.
The case involving Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade last year had escalated into a full-blown diplomatic spat between India and the US, casting a shadow on their ties.
Khobragade was arrested and then strip-searched in New York for allegedly mistreating her domestic maid.
In New York, Modi will deliver his maiden address at the UN General Assembly on Saturday.
In his address at the 69th session of the UNGA, Modi said he will call for a stronger global commitment and more concerted multilateral action in addressing challenges of fragile global economy, turbulence and tension in many parts of the world, growth and spread of terrorism, the Ebola health crisis in Africa, climate change and eradication of poverty.
“I will also stress the urgency of early reforms in the United Nations, to ensure that it remains relevant and effective in dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century,” he said..
Modi would be meeting as many as 11 top corporate honchos over breakfast on 29th September apart from one-on-one meetings with six more business captains the same day in New York. He will also be participating in a business meet, to be organised by USIBC that is expected to be attended by 300-400 businessmen in Washington on 30th September.
“I look forward to meeting business leaders to invite them to participate more actively in India’s economic growth and transformation. This is message that I will also convey to the US business community in Washington DC.
“My participation in a public event in Central Park in New York on poverty is to focus international attention on this great challenge for humanity and affirm my support for global civic action, especially involving the youth, to address it,” said Modi.
Referring to his scheduled address at the Madison Square Garden in New York on 28th September, he said he was keenly awaiting the opportunity to meet the Indian-American Community there.
“Their success in diverse fields, their contribution to the United States, their abiding bonds with India and their role as a vibrant bridge between the two largest democracies is a source of pride for us. They serve as a window to our heritage, progress and potential,” he said.
Modi would also be meeting the top American political leadership ranging from former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Indian-American South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
In Washington, there is a very high level of expectation from Modi’s meeting with President Obama.
Obama has gone out of his way to host a rare private dinner for Modi at the White House on 29th September, so as to establish a personal relationship with the Indian leader.
Ahead of his main summit at the White House on 30th September, Modi would visit the Martin Luther King Memorial and Lincoln Memorial in Washington and pay floral tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in front of the Indian Embassy.
This would be for the first time that an Indian Prime Minister would have so many public and private engagements during a US visit.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would make a courtesy call on the Prime Minister shortly after he arrives. Modi would also meet Nobel laureate Harold Eliot Varmus, who is the current Director of the National Cancer Institute.
He will pay a visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York on Saturday following which he is expected to drive down to the United Nations Headquarters to address the 69th annual session of UN General Assembly. He would also meet UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon. (PTI)