Obama, Modi chemistry can lead to positive outcomes: US


January 22, 2015

Washington: President Barack Obama shares a good relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US is hopeful that their chemistry will be helpful in advancing Indo-US ties, a presidential aide has said.

January 22, 2015

Washington: President Barack Obama shares a good relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US is hopeful that their chemistry will be helpful in advancing Indo-US ties, a presidential aide has said.

Referring to the first meeting between the two leaders at the White House on September 29-30, 2014 when Modi visited the US, National Deputy Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said they have "struck up a good chemistry", which is good for the two countries.

"They had a long discussion over dinner and then the next day, in addition to the meeting, I think it was very meaningful for the President to be able to visit the Martin Luther King memorial with Prime Minister Modi, given the links between Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi," Rhodes said.

"That speaks to kind of a shared sense of struggle and shared values between the US and India, and they were able to discuss those issues," he said. "So our hope is that the chemistry between the leaders and the personal relationship can lead to positive outcomes for our country. So it's worth the investment in the relationship with the country, the leader, and the people of India," he said.

Calling Prime Minister Modi an ambitious and forward-looking person, Rhodes said it is a good asset for bilateral relationship. "Modi has focused a lot of that energy on domestic issues and the economy there, but the fact that he wants the US-India relationship to be a part of his ambitions for India I think is a significant factor in opening the space for us to get some things done here," Rhodes said.

"In their first conversation after Prime Minister Modi's election, I think they noted some similarities in terms of how their campaigns kind of changed the way in which politics was practiced in their respective countries," he said.

Rhodes said Obama sees India trip "as a potentially transitional if not transformational moment for the relationship, because we have a very strong and clear indication from India's leadership that they want to elevate our bilateral cooperation and our global cooperation."

Rhodes said Modi's invitation to Obama to be the Chief Guest for the Republic Day Parade on January 26 surprised the White House. "In terms of the invitation, I think it took us by some surprise," he said.

According to Indian officials, it was Prime Minister Modi who came up with the idea of inviting Obama. "There's a great affinity between the United States and India and our people. But there's also a history that is complicated and that would've made it seem highly unlikely that a US President would be sitting with India's leaders at the Republic Day ceremony as Chief Guest, as recently as well certainly over the course of recent decades," Rhodes said.

"President Obama was personally honored to receive that invitation. I think he saw it as building on a successful summit with Prime Minister Modi," said Rhodes, who is considered to be a close confidant of the US President on foreign policy and national security matters.

"President signaled this priority when he took office, and he did a lot of good work with Prime Minister Singh. Now, I think this invitation has great symbolic importance, and a lot of this visit, frankly, is events that are very important symbolically to the Indian people, but also that, I think, sets the table for deepened bilateral and people to people ties," he said.

Rhodes said for Obama to be invited as the first US President to attend as the chief guest sends a very important message to the world, as well as to the American and Indian people about their commitment to embrace the potential of this relationship.

Obama, who would be spending several hours in the open with hundreds and thousands of people along the majestic Rajpath on January 26 has never attended such an event overseas, he said.

Even domestically, the inauguration is the only event that can be compared with his participation in India's Republic Day Parade, Rhodes said. "I do not think Obama has attended any national day ceremonies as President. I'm fairly confident of that; I've been on just about all of his foreign travel and I can't recall President Obama attending any other national day ceremony," he said.

"It's a unique event. It is of great symbolic importance, given the US-India history and given the importance of Republic Day in India. And so that's why he was more than pleased to accept the invitation," Rhodes said in response to a question.

Responding to a question if this is a security night mare, Rhodes referred to the inaugural parade that the President views after his swearing in ceremony. "With respect to the President's security requirements, all I can tell you is, for instance, the President views his own inaugural parade. The two times he's been inaugurated, we had substantial parades here in the United States to mark the presidential inauguration in which the President walks in the parade and then is on a reviewing stand for a period of hours in front of the White House," he said.

"So to me that's the closest analogy. They're obviously different events, but that the most analogous event where the President is in a reviewing stand viewing this type of ceremony for a period of hours, I think that's the closest analogy we have," Rhodes said. "There's not been a similar event that he's attended overseas in which he's done so, so it's unique in that case," he said.

Phil Reiner, Senior Director National Security Council for South Asia at the White House, said there was a lot of excitement in the Administration after receiving the invitation. It was not only an "honour" to receive such an invitation with, but also there was the excitement that "we have the opportunity" to come and elevate the nature of this strategic partnership, he said in the joint conference call with Rhodes.

"This is a day that is incredibly important not just to the government of India, but to the people of India.”I think it goes without saying that this is a seminal moment in the bilateral relationship in that the extension of this invitation by the Prime Minister really continues to set a different tone for our reinvigorated partnership," he added.

Courtesy: PTI