| 18 April 2024, Thursday |

Biden welcomes Modi with White House pomp, GE seals India deal

President Joe Biden threw out the red carpet for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday as part of his efforts to strengthen the US-India alliance and offset China’s global dominance through a series of defense and economic accords.

Biden welcomed Modi with a spectacular arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn in front of 7,000 people in the morning, before the leaders huddled for Oval Office meetings ahead of a magnificent state banquet in the evening.

“The challenges and opportunities facing the world in this century require that India and the United States work and lead together, and we are,” Biden said during the ceremony.

Washington wants India to be a strategic counterweight to China and sees India as a critical partnership, although some analysts and former officials question India’s willingness to stand up collectively to Beijing over issues such as Taiwan. Washington has also been frustrated by India’s close ties with Russia amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Modi is seeking to raise the influence that India, the world’s most populous country at 1.4 billion, has on the world stage in the wake of strained ties with neighboring China.

“This grand welcome ceremony at the White House today is an honor and pride for the 1.4 billion people of India,” Modi said, speaking mostly in Hindi. “This is also an honor for more than 4 million people of Indian origin living in the U.S. For this honor, I express my heartfelt gratitude.”

Both leaders noted that their country’s constitution started with the same three words, “We, the people.”

The festival-like opening ceremony featured violinist Vibha Janakiraman and a cappella group Penn Masala performing renditions of songs by the American group Maroon 5 as well as from movies featuring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

In a rare gesture, Modi has agreed to take questions from reporters with Biden at the White House on Thursday. Modi has not conducted a news conference since becoming prime minister nine years ago and his visit has drawn attention to concerns over human rights in India.

Biden said in the Oval Office before their private conversation that the two countries’ relationship needed to be “one grounded on democracy, human rights, freedom and rule of law.

Modi, reading from prepared remarks, said all eyes were on the world’s two largest democracies.

  • Reuters