, WASHINGTON, United States, Sep 30 – President Barack Obama took a first chance to size up Narendra Modi Monday, as the new Indian Prime Minister, an intriguing novice on the world stage, brought a tour which wowed New York to the White House.
Modi met Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other key US officials at the White House for a private dinner, ahead of formal talks in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
Washington hopes that the visit, following the landslide election victory of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in May, will turn a page in relations with New Delhi which are deeply valued here but have been under strain in recent years.
Modi and Obama sat down under a gilded chandelier in the antique-festooned Blue Room of the White House, in a group of 20 officials of both sides, also including Secretary of State John Kerry and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Despite the energy-sapping itinerary of high level summits and jet travel, Modi was expected to take only tea and lemonade as he maintains a nine day religious fast that he observes every year.
Both nations issued a joint “vision statement” promising that their “strategic partnership” would work to combat terror threats, respond to humanitarian disasters, prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and to “mitigate” the impact of climate change.
Modi warmed up for the White House visit by basking in a rock star welcome in New York in which he spoke to thousands of members of the Indian Diaspora at the Madison Square Garden sports arena and addressed the United Nations.
Indian American activists have pressed for years to rehabilitate the image of Modi, who was denied a visa to the United States in 2005 on human rights grounds over anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat.
Modi denies wrongdoing and was never charged over the violence that killed more than 1,000 people.