US President Donald Trump said yesterday that “strategic issues” would be on the table when he holds talks with his “true friend” Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, as the two leaders look to strike a personal rapport in their maiden meeting. “Look forward to welcoming India’s PM Modi to @WhiteHouse on Monday. Important strategic issues to discuss with a true friend!,” Trump posted on his official (@POTUS) Twitter handle.
Modi, in his reply to Trump, thanked him for the “warm personal welcome” and said he was “greatly” looking forward to the meeting and discussions tomorrow at the White House. Modi, who arrived here this morning, will hold summit talks with Trump tomorrow afternoon in the White House and the two leaders would spend several hours together in various settings including one-on-one and delegation-level meetings, a reception and a working dinner. The working dinner that Trump is hosting for Modi is the first of its kind under the current US administration. “The White House is very interested in making this a special visit. We’re really seeking to roll out the red carpet.
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In fact, the two (leaders) will have dinner, a working dinner at the White House,” a senior administration official told reporters at the White House. “This will be the first dinner for a foreign dignitary at the White House under this administration. So, we think that’s very significant,” the official said. Modi was welcomed with loud cheers and applause by the Indian community members who were waiting outside the Willard InterContinental Hotel here to catch a glimpse of the Indian leader. During his visit, Modi will also meet top American CEOs of global giants, including Apple, Microsoft and Google, here, with issues ranging from visas, investment and job creation expected to occupy centerstage during the discussions.
On the eve of Modi’s US visit, the Trump administration had dismissed reports that it has been ignoring India, saying President Trump realises that the country has been a “force for good” in the world and ties with it were important. “I think that it would be wrong to say that this administration has been ignoring or not focused on India,” a senior administration official had said. “I think that the US really appreciates India, and I think that President Trump realises that India has been a force for good in the world and that it’s a relationship that’s important. And I think that will come through in the visit on Monday,” the official said.
The senior administration official made the remarks while responding to questions on whether the US-India relationship has drifted under the new government, in part, because of President Trump and the administration’s support to China. “I think it’s a bit unfair. I mean, we’re only six months into the administration. But there have been two very good phone calls between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi that you can point to as showing both countries’ interest in the relationship,” the White House official argued.
“Yes, this will be the first opportunity for them to sit down and have a conversation, but I think that this is still fairly early on in the administration,” the official said. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said President Trump and Prime Minister Modi would have a very robust discussion when they meet at the White House. “During the meeting, the President and the Prime Minister will discuss ongoing cooperation, including counter-terrorism, defence partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, global cooperation, burden-sharing, trade, law enforcement, and energy,” Spicer had said. On whether the contentious H-1B visa issue would come up for discussion during the meeting, a senior administration official said it was unlikely to be raised from the US side but if raised by the Indian side, the Americans were ready for it.
Ahead of the visit, Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna said the first face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump will give them an opportunity to look at the entire gamut of Indo-US engagement and to exchange views on issues of global interest.