Obama looking forward to dinner with PM; feels India connect


Staff member
Washington October 29:

In a gesture that will highlight a "very close personal relationship" between the two leaders, US President Barack Obama will have a private dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence, a US official said here.

"And then that night, the President will have a private dinner with -- the President and the First Lady will have a private dinner with Prime Minister Singh and his wife," US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters here while unveiling Obama's itinerary during his Nov 6-9 visit to New Delhi.

Manmohan Singh will host the dinner for the Obamas at his 7 Race Course Road residence Nov 7, a day before the two leaders sit down for wide-ranging talks that is expected to infuse a new vigour in the India-US strategic partnership. Obama begins his four-day visit to India from Mumbai Nov 6. Rhodes stressed that Obama had "a very close personal relationship" with Manmohan Singh from his first meeting in London at the G20 meeting in April last year.

"As much as any leader in the world, I think he's somebody who has had a close intellectual connection with the president on a range of issues surrounding economic growth and development," he said while highlighting special chemistry that is said to exist between Manmohan Singh and Obama. "He's very much looking forward to this opportunity to have a private dinner with the prime minister," he said.

Obama hosted the first state dinner of his presidency in honour of Manmohan Singh under a sprawling white tent on the lawns of the White House in November last year that brought together the who's who of Washington and the Indian-American community. The two leaders have met several times on the sidelines of multilateral summits ever since Obama became the US president last year. Coming from a not-so-privileged African-American background, Obama feels that he has "some kind of a personal tie" with the extraordinary history of India in the 20th century, even though he is yet to visit the country, Rhodes said.

"There is a particular connection for the President as an African-American. As someone who comes from not a privileged background, the Indian story speaks to that in a sense that you have a country that inspired the world with its own story," he said. "Obviously India has its own civilisation and history, but in the 20th century its ability to move past colonialism in such an inspiring way ... reflects a model thriving, multi cultural diverse democracy that is very close to the core of the President's own story," Rhodes told Washington-based Indian reporters.

While planning for his maiden trip to India, Obama directed his White House staff to schedule events that would reflect the breadth of American ties with India. And therefore there are events that have economic, political and security components; besides the cultural component. "It is also very important for the President that we have events where he is capable of speaking to younger people. One of the things that he admires about countries like India is just how vast the young population is, the number of people below 30 and the potential is there within that.