New York: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his three-nation tour -- Portugal, US and Netherlands -- today, his trip to the US will be the one closely watched. He will reach Washington at 6am on Sunday where the White House is "rolling out the red carpet" for him. This would be PM Modi's fourth visit to the country where he forged a close relationship with former US President Barack Obama and called the US "an indispensable partner".
- PM Modi is on 3-nation tour to Portugal, US and Netherlands
- PM, Donald Trump to meet for the first time; spoke 3 times over phone
- Talks on climate change on agenda, may skip H-1B visa
A senior White House official told reporters that President Donald Trump's first working dinner with a foreign leader will be with the Indian Prime Minister.
The preparation started over two months ago, and the US wants this to be a "really memorable visit", the "White House has been abuzz with mammoth preparations on all fronts to make this a good visit," the official said.
"I am very confident that with new admin India-US engagement will only grow stronger and stronger," Navtej Sarna, Indian Ambassador to the US told news agency ANI.
President Trump recognises "India has been a force for good in the world and the relationship is very important". But while saying "India's role and influence has been growing and that the US would like to encourage that trend", the US maintained its relationship with Pakistan is also "productive" and it is concerned about the increased tensions between India and Pakistan and would like to encourage a bilateral dialogue between the two.
The two leaders will meet at 3.30 pm EST on June 26, and will deliver a joint statement along with individual statements. But there will be no press meet, "as preferred by both leaders". This will be followed by a cocktail reception and a working dinner. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US Defence Secretary James Mattis and General Herbert Raymond McMaster will be involved in the visit along with all key cabinet members.
The first face-to-face interaction between Trump and PM Modi, whom have spoken thrice over the phone, is expected to focus on three major areas -- defence, terrorism and energy. But it will also play to Donald Trump's core message of creating American jobs, especially in defence and energy, and many of the announcements will be looked through that prism.
Asserting that a "strong India is good for the US", the official said President Trump wants to build on India's designation as United States "major defence partner" through "concrete examples", and while not commenting specifically on the $2-3 bn drone deal comprising the 22 Guardian unarmed drones that the US will be supplying to India the administration stressed on expanding the $15 bn defence contracts India has signed over the last decade. The official also stressed that China has not been a reason for any "drift between US and India".
While the H1B visa policy is not expected to come up for talks, climate change would be an important topic of discussion, but the US will "seek common ground".
PM Modi will hold one-on-one meetings with top American CEOs during the day and will attend a CEO dinner being organised by the Indian Embassy at Hotel Willard. On Sunday afternoon, PM Modi will interact with the local community at a lunch reception in Virginia.