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Obama India visit a “seminal moment” for bilateral ties

Narendra Modi & Barack Obama

Washington: Describing the upcoming India visit of Barack Obama as a “seminal moment” for bilateral ties, the US has said it sends a “very important” message to the world about the commitment of the two countries to realise the “extraordinary” potential of their relationship.

Stating that the trip has come at a time when the US has a “growing agenda” with India, National Deputy Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the US is hopeful that the “chemistry” between the President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and their personal relationship can lead to “positive outcomes” for the country.

Briefing reporters on Obama’s three-day visit starting January 25 during a conference call, Rhodes also said the two countries would like to turn the extraordinary potential in their relationship into concrete benefits for their people.

He said Modi’s invitation to Obama to be the Chief Guest for the Republic Day Parade on January 26 surprised the White House. The two leaders are due to have talks on January 25.

“In terms of the invitation, I think it took us by some surprise,” he said.

Rhodes said that energy policy and climate change will rank as top agenda items as US negotiators lay the groundwork for an international climate agreement ahead of a December UN summit in Paris.

He also identified economy, defense and regional and global issues as key matters of the discussions.

“As the world’s two largest democracies, there’s extraordinary potential in this relationship. We want to turn this potential into concrete benefits for our people. And so this trip comes at a time when we have a growing agenda with India.

“Our goal is to leave this relationship in a fundamentally different place than it was when President Obama took office, and when Prime Minister Modi assumed charge. We believe that we have a unique moment of opportunity to have that type of breakthrough,” he said.

Referring to the first meeting between the two leaders at the White House on September 29-30 last year when Modi visited the US, Rhodes said they have “struck up a good chemistry”, which is good for the two countries.

“So our hope is that the chemistry between the leaders and the personal relationship can lead to positive outcomes for our country. So it’s worth the investment in the relationship with the country, the leader, and the people of India,” he said.

Describing the Republic Day as a “unique” event, Rhodes said for Obama to be invited as the first US President to attend as the chief guest sends a very important message to the world, as well as to the American and Indian people about their commitment to embrace the potential of their ties.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice, influential business leaders and a host of other lawmakers, including Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera, would be travelling with Obama to attend the Republic Day celebrations.

Besides Rice, the official US delegation accompanying Obama would include Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzeker, US Trade Representatives Mike Froman and climate change advisor to the president John Podesta.

Rhodes said Sasha and Malia, the 16 and 13-year-old daughters of Obama and First Lady Michelle, won’t be accompanying them on the trip as they tend only to travel with their parents when they are on vacation from school.

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