Washington: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi began a landmark visit to the US, the White House declared that it highly valued the India-US partnership and President Barack Obama looked forward to working with Modi to fulfil its promise.
"I can tell you that the visit is an opportunity to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest in order to expand and deepen the US-India strategy partnership," White House press secretary Josh earnest told reporters Friday.
"It is a partnership that is highly valued by this country and by this White House," he said ahead of Obama's meetings with Modi, first for a private dinner at the White House on Monday followed by a formal bilateral summit in his Oval office Tuesday.
Vice President Joe Biden will also attend the dinner as also the summit and later with Secretary of State John Kerry host a lunch for Modi at the State Department Tuesday.
At their summit the two leaders "will discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest in order to expand and deepen the US-India strategy partnership," Earnest said.
"We will discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, bolster security cooperation, and collaborate in activities that bring long-term benefits to both countries and the world," Earnest said.
"We'll focus on regional issues, including current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, where India and the United States can work together with partners toward a positive outcome," he said.
"The President himself looks forward to working with the Prime Minister to fulfil the promise of the US-India strategy partnership for the benefit of citizens in both our countries," Earnest said.
Asked what the White House planned to do at the dinner for a fasting Modi, the official said: "We obviously try to be respectful of the needs of all of the high-profile visitors that come to the White House, and to be respectful of their observances."
It was a working dinner with a substantial number of people around the table, Earnest said.
And if Modi or any other participants "choose not to eat based on their own religious or cultural observance, then we'll certainly work to accommodate their needs as best we can."
Asked if it meant there will be food at the table, but Modi just won't partake, the official said: "Well, I think that he has indicated that is what his plan is, but I'll let his spokesman speak for him."
Earnest also did not anticipate that summons issued against Modi by a New York court in a case filed by American Justice Centre would "have any impact on his very important visit here to the US and to the White House" as he enjoyed immunity.
Echoing other senior administration officials, he reiterated that "as a general legal principle, sitting heads of government enjoy immunity from lawsuits in American courts while in the United States."
"Sitting heads of government also enjoy personal inviolability while in the United States, which means they cannot be personally handed or delivered papers to begin the process of a lawsuit."
"In addition, as a matter of treaty, the heads of delegations to the UN General Assembly enjoy immunity while in New York to attend UN events."
"So this means I don't anticipate that it's going to have any impact on his very important visit here to the US and to the White House," he said.
Meanwhile, Modi is all set to take to the world stage with an address to the UN general assembly Saturday morning in New York.
He is expected to speak in Hindi like former prime minister Atal Bihari, Vajpayee who was the first person to deliver a speech to UNGA in Hindi as external affairs minister in 1997.