President Barack Obama welcomes India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House this week in a low-key nod to the improved ties between the world’s biggest democracies.
That the pair would get along was not a given: When Obama came to office in 2009, the Hindu nationalist was banned from entering the United States over his role in anti-Muslim riots.
But the ban was lifted after Modi was sworn into office in May 2014 and he has since made four US visits — two to Washington — while Obama has twice traveled to India.
Relations between the countries are not always easy — India insists on staying out of formal alliances and forging its own course — but both leaders can boast that ties have improved.
For Obama, who will step down from office in January, this is now a matter of his legacy — friendship with India and inroads into its huge market are a victory for his so-called “pivot to Asia.”
For Modi, Tuesday’s visit is a time to set the seal on what has been achieved and set the stage for what he hopes will be a mushrooming in US-India trade from $120 billion to $500 billion.
Ahead of the trip, India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told reporters Obama had invited Modi as one of the leaders with whom “he had a close and productive working relationship.”
“So, in many ways you can say it is sort of a consolidation visit,” he added.
On Monday, Modi will head to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony and meet with think tank scholars.
He will have a working lunch with Obama on Tuesday, followed by a series of meetings with US business leaders and members of the three million strong Indian-American community.
On Wednesday, he will become the fifth Indian premier to address a joint session of the US Congress, and afterwards will be hosted at a reception for dignitaries and lawmakers.