PM says US a 'natural global partner'

PM says US a 'natural global partner'

PM says US a 'natural global partner'

Describing America as India's "natural global partner", Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here today on a five-day visit to the US, holding out an assurance that India is "open and friendly" for business and innovations.

Modi, 64, flew into New York's JFK airport on a special Air India Boeing plane on the first leg of his maiden visit to the US as Prime Minister after a nearly nine-hour flight from Frankfurt where he had an overnight halt.

As he seeks to hardsell India as a sound investment destination and mend ties with the US after a bitter diplomatic row last year, Modi asserted that the two countries have a fundamental stake and many shared interests in each other's success.

Ahead of his arrival, Modi said he was looking forward to meeting President Barack Obama in Washington over two days from September 29 on the second and final leg of his visit. This will be the first meeting between the leaders of the world's two largest democracies.

The Prime Minister, who has a power-packed schedule, both in New York and Washington, with nearly 50 engagements, is due to deliver his maiden address to the UN General Assembly(UNGA) tomorrow during his three-day stay in New York.

Giving an insight into his UN address, Modi had said he he will call for a stronger global commitment and more concerted multilateral action in addressing challenges of fragile global economy, turbulence and tension in many parts of the world and growth and spread of terrorism.

Modi had said he will discuss with Obama how Indo-US ties can be taken to a "new level" in the interest of the two countries as well as of the world. He had also called the US as India's "vital partner" for its national development.

Obama will host a rare private dinner for Modi at the White House on September 29, so as to establish a personal relationship with the Indian leader ahead of summit talks the next day.

The Prime Minister is expected to have only tea and lemonade at the dinner as his US visit coincides with the Navratri fast which he religiously observes every year.

In an Op-Ed piece "Unleashing India's Energy and Drive" in the Wall Street Journal, Modi wrote that India and the US have "a fundamental stake in each other's success for the sake of our values and our many shared interests".

"The US is our natural global partner. India and the US embody the enduring and universal relevance of their shared values," Modi said, adding, "...India will be open and friendly--for business, ideas, research, innovations and travel. In the coming months, you will feel the difference even before you begin your travel to India."

The case involving Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade last year had escalated into a full-blown diplomatic spat between India and the US, casting a shadow on their ties which was also clouded by irritants on some trade issues.

Khobragade was arrested and then strip-searched in New York for allegedly mistreating her domestic maid. She has denied any wrongdoing and has subsequently returned home.

Modi will draw perhaps the largest crowd ever by a foreign leader on US soil when he takes the stage on Sunday at New York's Madison Square Garden before a crowd forecast to be around 20,000 people, mostly from the NRI community.

Modi was unwelcome in the US for years after he was denied a visa in 2005 over the 2002 Gujarat riots under the terms of a 1998 US law that bars entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom".

The Prime Minister will have a gruelling schedule in New York which includes a meeting with as many as 11 top corporate honchos over breakfast on September 29.

These include Google Executive Chairman Eric E Schmidt, Carlyle Group Co-Founder and Co-CEO David M Rubenstein, Cargill President and CEO David W MacLennan, Merck & Co CEO Kenneth C Frazier and MasterCard President and CEO Ajay Banga, over breakfast on September 29.

The Prime Minister would also be having one-on-one meetings with six other executives from top corporate houses including Goldman Sachs, Boeing, BlackRock, IBM and General Electric.

In his interactions with top American corporate sector executives, the Prime Minister is expected to make a strong pitch for his policy of "red carpet and not red tape" to invite them to come, invest and make in India.

Ramping up cooperation in various key areas such as defence and nuclear energy and attracting American corporate honchos to invest in India are likely to dominate the visit which came a day after Modi launched the ambitious Make in India campaign in New Delhi.

Modi will pay a visit to the 9/11 memorial tomorrow following which he is expected to drive down to the UN headquarters to address the 69th annual session of the UNGA.

In Washington, Modi will also be participating in a business meet, to be organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC), to be attended by 300-400 businessmen in Washington on September 30. Vice President Joe Biden will also host a lunch for the Prime Minister on that day.

Seeking enhanced ties, Modi said in the Wall Street op-ed that the complementary strengths of India and the US can be used for inclusive and broad-based global development to transform lives across the world.

"This is a moment of flux in the global order. I am confident in the destiny of our two nations, because democracy is the greatest source of renewal and, with the right conditions, offers the best opportunity for the human spirit to flourish," he said.

Modi would also be meeting the top American political leadership ranging from former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Indian-American South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Ahead of his main summit at the White House on September 30, Modi would visit the Martin Luther King Memorial and Lincoln Memorial in Washington and pay floral tribute to Mahatma Gandhi's statue in front of the Indian Embassy.

This would be for the first time that an Indian Prime Minister would have so many public and private engagements during a US visit.

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