Washington: US President Donald Trump urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do more to relax trade barriers in India during talks on Monday in which both leaders took great pains to stress the importance of a strong US-Indian relationship.
At a closely watched first meeting between the two, President Trump and PM Modi appeared to be getting along well. PM Modi pulled in Donald Trump for a bear hug on the stage as the cameras rolled in the Rose Garden.
"I deeply appreciate your strong commitment to the enhancement of our bilateral relations," PM Modi told Mr Trump. "I am sure that under your leadership a mutually beneficial strategic partnership will gain new strength, new positively, and will reach new heights."
President Trump also was warm but made clear he sees a need for more balance in the US-India trade relationship in keeping with his campaign promise to expand American exports and create more jobs at home. Last year the US trade deficit with India neared $31 billion.
Donald Trump said he would like a trading relationship that is "fair and reciprocal."
"It is important that barriers be removed to the export of US goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country," he said.
President Trump said he was pleased about SpiceJet's recent order of 100 new American planes and that the United States looked forward to exporting more energy, including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas.
These energy contracts "are being negotiated and we will sign - trying to get the price up a little bit," Mr Trump said.
PM Modi came to Washington looking to revitalise a relationship that had flagged as President Trump looked to build a strong relationship with China.
PM Modi praised Mr Trump's "vast and successful experience in the business world" and "great leadership" for US-India ties. He said he had invited Mr Trump to India but no time was given for such a visit.
PM Modi harked back to Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan to stress that his agenda for India was little different than President Trump's.
"I am sure that the convergence of my vision for 'New India' and President Trump's vision for making America great again will add new dimensions to our cooperation," he said.
If PM Modi needed reassurances from Mr Trump, he got them. President Trump did not mention US differences with India on immigration and the Paris climate accord.
"The future of our partnership has never looked brighter," Mr Trump said.
As they met, a Pentagon agency said the US State Department has approved the possible sale to India of a Boeing C-17 transport aircraft with an estimated cost of $366 million.
Trump administration officials had pointed to both leaders' impact on social media - each has more than 30 million Twitter followers - as proof that they are cut from the same cloth, and predicted the two would get along well.
Later, President Trump and PM Modi had a working dinner, the first time Donald Trump has played host to a foreign dignitary at a White House dinner.
"If the chemistry is good, everything else gets sorted," said an official. "The only way is up. How much up we go depends on the leaders. If they click, we go up higher."
© Thomson Reuters 2017