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Modi among close world leaders Obama is inviting


New Delhi: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the US on June 7-8 in the course of his five-nation tour starting on Saturday, he will be among the few close world leaders that President Barack Obama is inviting in the last year of his presidency.

“President Obama spoke to the Prime Minister and mentioned to him that this year he was inviting some leaders with whom he had a very close and productive working relationship to visit him in the United States,” Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said at a pre-departure media briefing here on Friday.

This will be Modi’s second bilateral visit to the US after his visit in September 2014.

Jaishankar said that in many ways it would be a sort of “consolidation visit” after Obama and Modi working on the US-India relationship in the last two years.

After departing on Saturday morning, Modi will stop over in Herat in Afghanistan where he will, jointly with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, inaugurate the India-Afghan Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, that has been rebuilt with Indian aid.

Originally constructed in 1976 on the Hari river basin, the Salma Dam suffered extensive damage during the civil war in Afghanistan.

“It was built at a cost of approximately Rs 1,700 crore,” Jaishankar said.

He said that three turbines on the dam will 42 MW of electricity and the water will irrigate around 75,000 hectares of land.

After attending a lunch to be hosted in his honour by Ghani, Modi will leave for Doha, Qatar, where he will meet Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani on Saturday evening.

He will also visit a camp of Indian workers. Qatar is home to around 630,000 expatriate Indians, many of whom are blue collar workers.

Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit four Gulf countries after having visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Iran.

On Sunday, he will begin his engagements in Qatar with a meeting with business leaders following which he will hold a restricted meeting with Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

Jaishankar pointed out that trade between India and the Gulf region stood at $112 billion and two-thirds of India’s energy supplies come from that region.

Bilateral trade between India and Qatar stands at $10 billion.

“It (Qatar) can also be a large economic partner as it has a large sovereign wealth fund,” the foreign secretary said.

After signing of bilateral agreements and an interaction with the Indian community, Modi will leave for Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday evening.

On June 6, the prime minister will hold a meeting with President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann and also interact with business leaders.

Jaishankar said that Switzerland was India’s fifth largest trade partner and the 11th largest investor in India.

The country is strong in the areas of renewable energy and vocational education.

After concluding his engagements in Switzerland, Modi will leave for Washington on June 6 where he will meet heads of think tanks.

On June 7, he will be hosted for lunch by President Obama at the White House after which he will attend a business meeting.

The highlight of Modi’s US visit will be his address to a joint sitting of the US Congress on June 8.

“Today, the Congress is very much at the heart of our relationship with the United States,” Jaishankar said.

“It has been very supportive of India,” he said.

After attending a lunch and a reception at the US Congress and an Indian community reception, Modi will depart for Mexico City on June 8 afternoon where he will hold a meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto.

This will be the first prime ministerial bilateral visit from India to Mexico in 30 years after then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1986.

Manmohan Singh visited Mexico in 2012 to attend the G20 Summit.

Jaishankar said that two-way trade between India and Mexico stood at $6 around billion.

Within Asia, India is the largest importer of crude oil from Mexico.

India exports pharmaceutical products and automobile parts to Mexico.

“We expect the focus of the discussions will be on bilateral cooperation, specially bilateral economic cooperation,” Jaishankar said.

After attending a dinner that will be hosted for him by President Pena Nieto, Modi will leave for India on June 8.


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