PM Narendra Modi meets Barack Obama: gifts him Gita
Washington: In one of the most awaited meets scheduled to take place this year, US President Barack Obama on Monday hosted a private dinner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was once shunned by America, at the White House here.
The duo will hold summit level talks on Tuesday to reset stalled India-US relations.
After the dinner, Modi described the meet with Obama as “wonderful”, adding the duo discussed a number of issues.
Briefing reporters after the 90-minute meet, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin described the first talks between the two leaders at dinner as “convivial and comforting”.
President Obama greeted PM Modi in his mother tongue Gujarati, saying “Khem Chho? (How are you?)”. Modi responded in English with, “Thank you very much Mr President”, said Akbaruddin.
Modi gifted a special edition of the Gita, an interpretation by Mahatma Gandhi, to Obama. The book had been prepared in Delhi.
The two leaders began communication by sharing anecdotes about their early days in office as “outsiders”.
“They shared many similarities – both used technology in their campaigns, both were relative outsiders in to capital cities when they assumed power. Both felt initial disappointments in terms of available infrastructure,” Akbaruddin told reporters.
Modi, fasting for the Hindu festival of Navratri, sipped warm water at dinner but told Obama to “please go ahead as normal”.
Set in an informal ambiance, the dinner was the first opportunity for both the leaders to interact with each other.
First Lady Michelle Obama, however, gave the dinner a miss.
Both the leaders were joined by 20 attendees at the dinner. The US President was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice among others.
Modi was accompanied by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Indian Ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar among others. As Obama hosted Modi for dinner, the local Indian-Americans celebrated the Modi-Obama meeting by organising a cultural event and performing “Garbha” dance in front of the White House.
A small group of Kashmir separatists and Sikh separatists also held a protest outside the White House building, but they were far outnumbered by the pro-Modi supporters.
There was an unprecedented level of security in and around the White House and Blair House, the official guest house of the US President, in view of the two recent security breaches.
The Pennsylvania Avenue was closed for most part in the evening and the pro-Modi group and anti-India protesters were pushed far behind when the motorcade crossed the avenue on its way to the White House.
Obama received Modi at the South Gate of the White House and the dinner was held in Blue Room of the President’s official residence.