Modi-Obama meeting to have strong focus on defence, security

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first ever meeting with US President Barack Obama will have a strong focus on defence and security issues, senior US administration officials said today.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 26, 2014, 22:41 PM IST

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first ever meeting with US President Barack Obama will have a strong focus on defence and security issues, senior US administration officials said today.

Energy, climate change and trade and economy would be other major areas of discussion when Obama and Modi meet for two consecutive days next week at the White House in Washington, which officials said would help the two leaders know each other and establish a personal rapport between them.

"The President and the First Lady are very excited and pleased to welcome Prime Minister to Washington and to the White House. This is a historic and pivotal moment in the history of our two democratic nations," a top administration official said.

The official said that Modi's visit comes at a pivotal time in international matters, with crisis ranging from the fight against militants in the Middle East to the challenges posed to the people and governments of East Africa by Ebola.

It is in this international context that the two leaders would be meeting here on Monday and Tuesday, the official said.

At the invitation of the President, Modi would be staying at the Blair House.

Obama and the First Lady would host a private dinner for the visiting leader on September 29, soon after he arrives from New York, after attending the annual session of the UN General Assembly.

Modi and Obama would hold their formal meeting at the Oval Office of the White House on the morning of Tuesday, September 30.

Thereafter Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry would host him for lunch at the Foggy Bottom headquarters in the State Department.

"We are very much looking forward to discussing the full range of global issues and considering the means to addressing those issues and challenges together," the official said.

Two leaders, the official said, would discuss the ways in which the US can play a strong and supportive role in support of the Prime Minister's objective of economic and domestic reforms, following his landslide victory in the general elections early this year.

The United States is looking forward to "reinvigorate" the strategic partnership, the official added.

The official reiterated that the US continues to support a strong India that plays an important role in international affairs and the Prime Minister's visit to the US would provide the two leaders to sit down and chalk out a vision for this defining partnership of the 21st century.

According to another senior administration official, the two leaders are expected to discuss about how the US can partner with India on its economic goals and objectives, including priorities that Modi has put forward with respect to infrastructure, with respect to manufacturing and skills.

"We look forward to continued emphasis on India's energy security and how we can work together to advance that goal and objective, including with respect to access to energy for the 400 million Indians who currently have insufficient or inadequate access to power. Particularly important in our conversations is the focus on clean energy and clean technology and how we can advance our partnership in that area," the official said.

Another official said, "We will also have discussions on the challenges that the Prime Minister has identified in his address with the Indian people in terms of the domestic challenges that India faces where the US can provide some level of partnership, knowledge, technical support."

Addressing India's security concerns and strengthening security partnership both in terms of security of the homeland, on counter-terrorism as well as regional and global security in terms of the defence partnership will be another area of focus, the official said.

"We expect to be able to advance those relationships significantly," the official added.

"We are fully committed that helping India in achieving its domestic ambition of a strong economy and enabling a strong, capable and confident India at home will also serve the US and global interests in having a strong and capable partner to address regional and global challenges as well."

Responding to questions, the first official said: "What you will see is really a good, strong focus on defence and security issues, but then also on clean energy and climate change. You will probably see the majority of the deliverables that come out of that conversation to be within that spectrum."

The official said they expect that in this visit, the two leaders would be talking about advancing their cooperation across the length and the breadth of that partnership.

"So, whether it's on energy or environment or sustainable growth, whether it's on science and technology and space, where we have a great deal that is happening between our two countries, that we think we're going to have some both concrete initiatives to talk about, but also a body of work between our two countries," the official added.

When asked about Modi's fast during the visit, the official said this would not be an issue.

"Both we and the Indians have agreed that this should not be a distraction or change any of the things that we want to take on during the visit. It's simply a practice by the Prime Minister that we'll work to accommodate, but all the events will go forward and look forward to conducting a full range of business through those events," the official said.