President Obama and India PM Modi will set new US-India agenda

The leaders met in the Oval Office Tuesday, the centerpiece of Modi's two-day visit to the White House, and described their agenda in an opinion article that appeared on The Washington Post website.

Evan Vucci/AP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he arrives at the White House in Washington, Sept. 30, for a meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Obama and Modi planned a meeting Tuesday as the centerpiece of a rare two-day visit to the White House.

President Barack Obama and India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday that "it is time to set a new agenda" between their countries, addressing concerns that the world's two largest democracies have grown apart.

The leaders met in the Oval Office Tuesday, the centerpiece of Modi's two-day visit to the White House, and described their agenda in an opinion article that appeared on The Washington Post website. They said they will explore ways to expand collaboration on trade, investment and technology "that harmonize with India's ambitious development agenda, while sustaining the United States as the global engine of growth."

"The true potential of our relationship has yet to be fully realized," the leaders wrote. "The advent of a new government in India is a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship. With a reinvigorated level of ambition and greater confidence, we can go beyond modest and conventional goals. It is time to set a new agenda, one that realizes concrete benefits for our citizens."

Obama hosted Modi for a private dinner Monday — despite the fact that Indian leader, a devout Hindu, was fasting.

Typically, visiting heads of state spend just a portion of a day at the White House meeting with Obama and other U.S. leaders. The rare second day of attention from Obama underscored the White House's desire to give a warm welcome to a man who once was barred from even entering the U.S.

A military honor cordon lined the White House driveway as the black SUV carrying Modi drove up to the West Wing entrance for the meeting. Crowds gathered outside the gates cheered as the vehicle began to make its way over from Blair House, the government guest house across the street from the White House, where Modi spent the night.

Now the leader of the world's largest democracy, Modi was the top elected official in the Indian state of Gujarat more than a decade ago when religious riots there killed more than 1,000 Muslims. When Modi later requested a visa to visit the U.S., Washington said no. Modi has denied involvement in the violence.

Obama and Modi wrote they also plan to discuss shared intelligence on terrorism and regional concerns, including Afghanistan, where the U.S. is winding down its 13-year military involvement. They also said the agenda includes clean energy, climate change, medical collaboration to fight diseases and scientific efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene throughout India.

While military ties and defense trade between the two countries have grown, the economic relationship has been rockier, with Washington frustrated by India's failure to open its economy to more foreign investment and address intellectual property complaints. Challenges with an existing civil nuclear agreement and the arrest and strip search last year of an Indian diplomat have further frayed relations.

Before arriving in Washington, Modi received a rock-star reception at New York's Madison Square Garden, where thousands of Indian-Americans flocked for a rare chance to see the new leader. The dazzling Bollywood-style dancers and dozens of U.S. lawmakers who took part highlighted the popular support Modi is enjoying on his first official visit to the U.S. since being elected in May.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.