Obama has ‘strong working relationship’ with Modi: White House
President Barack Obama has a “strong working relationship” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the White House said on Thursday, noting that it was engaged in discussions with Indian officials over “scheduling” a “potential” prime ministerial visit to Washington.
On a day when House Speaker Paul Ryan went public with his invitation to the Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of US Congress on June 8, the White House, not having made a formal announcement yet on the visit, said the discussions with Indian officials were continuing.
“We’re still engaged in those discussions,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in response to a question at his media briefing on the visit and went on to comment about President Obama’s “strong working relationship” with Prime Minister Modi.
Earnest made a specific mention of President Obama’s praise for Modi over the important role that he played in ensuring the successful completion of the Paris climate talks last December, noting Obama had a long meeting with Modi on that occasion.
The spokesman also referred to the Prime Minister’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last month, besides recalling Obama’s “memorable visit” to New Delhi early last year at the invitation of the Prime Minister to be the guest of honour at the Republic Day celebration.
“So they obviously have a strong working relationship, and we’re in conversations with them about scheduling a visit,” Earnest said, a day after
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar held discussions with US National Security Advisor Susan Rice here on a host of bilateral issues, including trade, defence and climate change.
Top lawmakers, meanwhile, have lauded Speaker Ryan’s invitation to the Prime Minister to address the US Congress, saying it will provide an opportunity for further impetus to relations between the two countries.
Saying the Speaker’s decision demonstrates “the growing commitment to strengthening the strategic partnership between the US and India”, Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn said in a joint statement: “As a key security partner with a flourishing economy, a thriving relationship with India presents tremendous opportunities to reach our joint economic and strategic goals.”
“Prime Minister Modi’s visit presents an opportunity to energise efforts to improve bilateral ties between our two countries,” said Warner and Cornyn, who are also the Democratic and Republican co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus.
Senior Congressman Ed Royce, who led a bipartisan group to press for the PM’s address to Congress, expected it to “serve as a sign of the deep and important relationship between the US and India”.
Ami Bera, the only Indian-American in the current Congress, felt it would be an opportunity for members of Congress to “learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing our two nations”, while Tulsi Gabbard, the lone Hindu lawmaker in Congress, expected the address to “explore how our two nations can work together to further our shared values and interests”.
Congressman Brad Sherman, who had led the previous effort for a Modi address to Congress that could not materialize because of scheduling difficulties, said he was pleased that the Prime Minister would now be able to address a joint session.
Modi will be the fifth Indian Prime Minister to address Congress after Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, PV Narasimha Rao in 1994, Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000 and Manmohan Singh in 2005.