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RED CARPET WELCOME AWAITS MODI

The Obama Administration is leaving no stone unturned to woo Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his maiden visit to the US which is expected to take the strategic bilateral relationship to the next level and unleash the potential of economic and trade ties. The administration here is gearing up to give a red carpet welcome to Prime Minister Modi when he arrives in Washington on September 29 from New York where he would attend the annual General Assembly session of the United Nations. The discussion between Modi and Obama over two days in Washington is expected to result in taking the bilateral relationship to the next level in terms of defense and strategic ties, co-operation in the field of space and counter-terrorism and unleash the potential of economic and trade ties, sources familiar with the preparations told PTI. On September 29, Obama is likely to host Modi for a small working dinner, which is rarely accorded to a visiting foreign leader. The maiden meeting between the two leaders on September 29 would help Obama and Modi to know each other and prepare the ground for the next day's meeting at the White House. Soon after his electoral victory, Obama had called Modi to congratulate him and invited him to visit Washington. Thereafter the two leaders have not spoken over phone, but there has been an exchange of letters between the two. Obama, who of late has been tied up on the foreign policy front over developments in the Middle East –- Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel-Palestine and Ukraine -- is looking forward to meeting Modi and exchange views on international issues of concern. Encouraged by the steps taken by the Modi government in its first 100 days, the Obama Administration sees an India that is of great strategic significance and can act as a stabilising force in the entire Asia Pacific region. A strong and prosperous India, US officials argue, is in the best interest of the United States. India, US officials say, under Modi would play a key role not only in South Asia, but also in South East Asia. In fact, India-US relationship has been identified as one of the top four priorities by both Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry this year, officials said. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met Modi in New Delhi in quick succession this summer. The meetings generated excitement in the US as well. "The two leaders will discuss a range of issues of mutual interest in order to expand and deepen the US-India strategic partnership. They 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," the White House had said in a statement earlier while formally announcing the visit. 

After a dinner on September 29, the two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House for a substantive talk on September 30. "The fact that there will be interactions over two days is a signal of the importance we place on the US-India relationship," said Caitlin Hayden, Spokesperson of the National Security Council. While Modi's Joint Address to the US Congress could not happen due to the November elections, a large number of lawmakers are believed to have requested a meeting with the Prime Minister. Organisers of Modi's trip are having a tough time in scheduling these meetings. Modi has also received a request for meetings from the top American business community both in New York and Washington DC. With economic development his key priority, Modi is expected to interact with the American business community in both New York and Washington DC. The visit will mark Modi's first trip to the US since his party swept to victory in general elections in May. In 2005, the US State Department had revoked a visa that Modi had for travelling to the US in the wake of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. He never applied for an American visa after the move. 

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