PM Modi to launch charm offensive in US

modi-obama1After a promising debut on the global stage at the July 15-16 BRICS summit in Brazil, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to the US in September is poised to be a blockbuster show.

While the Obama administration looks set to roll out a grand welcome to the Indian leader in Washington, Mr Modi, known for his tech-savvy election-campaign and inspired oratory, will launch a major charm offensive in the country which once denied him a visa. He will address a gathering of around 20,000 people in New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden. The video will be broadcast live to crowds in 20 other cities in the US on September 28.

The event, designed to showcase Modi’s popularity and message in the country, home to around 3 million persons of Indian origin, is being organised by BJP officials and prominent Gujarati NRIs, Bharat Barai and Chandrakant Patel. This will be the first time an Indian leader will address such a mammoth crowd in the US.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns had officially extended an invitation to Narendra Modi to visit the US for bilateral talks during his preparatory meeting in Delhi over a week ago.

US President Barack Obama has voiced his desire to work closely with India’s new business-friendly prime minister and galvanise the India-US ties which languished in the last few months of the previous Manmohan Singh government. President Obama will have his first meeting with Prime Minister Modi at the White House September 30. Mr Modi will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York before heading to Washington for bilateral talks.

Mr Modi’s relationship with the US has been fraught and testy over the years.  In March 2013, Modi was invited to speak via video-link at an annual student-run conference on India at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. But the event was later cancelled after fears of polarising reactions given Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which killed thousands, mostly Muslims. Mr Modi has vehemently denied the allegations, with India’s top court giving him a clean chit.

A group of teachers and students had expressed outrage over Mr Modi being invited to deliver the keynote address at the meeting.

“This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on 18 March 2005 on the ground that he, as chief minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat,” they said in a letter.

 

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