American President Joe Biden welcomed India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday with a state visit at the White House.
The visit was meant to establish stronger defense and economic ties between the two countries. The visit was also seen as an effort to counter China’s worldwide influence.
Biden welcomed Modi with a colorful White House South Lawn arrival ceremony in the morning. He said, “I’ve long believed the relationship between the United States and India...will be one of the defining relationships of the 21st century.”
With Modi by his side, Biden added, “Since I’ve become president, we’ve continued to build a relationship built on mutual trust, candor and respect.”
Modi is the son of a tea seller who rose to become India’s prime minister. He recalled that the first time he visited the White House was 30 years ago as a “common man.”
“I have come here many times but today for the first time, the doors of the White House have been opened for the Indian American community in such large numbers,” Modi said to an estimated crowd of 7,000 people.
Speaking in both English and Hindi, Modi thanked Biden, saying, "This grand welcome ceremony at the White House today is an honor and pride for the 1.4 billion people of India.”
Modi added, "This is also an honor for more than 4 million people of Indian origin living in the U.S."
The gathering listened to violinist Vibha Janakiraman and the singing group Penn Masala.
The two leaders then met in the Oval Office for talks, followed by a state dinner in the evening.
Biden and Modi plan to announce that the U.S. will permit General Electric to partner with India-based Hindustan Aeronautics to produce jet engines for Indian military aircraft. India also plans to buy American-made MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones for its armed forces.
In addition, U.S. Navy ships will soon be able to stop in Indian seaports for repairs under an agreement that the two governments reached.
Several American companies also announced plans aimed at helping India’s semiconductor industry.
Micron Technology has agreed to build a $2.75-billion semiconductor plant in India. Micron will spend $800 million and India will provide the rest.
Applied Materials also says it will launch a new semiconductor center in India. And Lam Research, another semiconductor manufacturing equipment company, will start a training program for 60,000 Indian engineers.
India has also agreed to join the U.S.-led Artemis Accords on space exploration. It will also work with the American space agency NASA on a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024.
Biden said, “All this matters for America, for India and for the world.”
Some members of Congress boycott
Despite the warm welcome from the White House, some U.S. lawmakers raised concerns about the state of democracy in India.
Three Democrats -- U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib -- have said they would boycott Modi's speech to Congress on Thursday. And 70 lawmakers wrote to Biden asking him to raise concerns with Modi about the decrease in religious, press and political freedoms in India.
Representative Pramila Jayapal is a Democrat from Washington state who was born in India. She helped organize the lawmakers’ letter. She said, “If India continues to backslide, I think it will affect our ability to have a really strong relationship with the country.”
Modi has been to the United States five times since becoming prime minister in 2014. But this is his first trip with the full diplomatic status of a state visit.
Modi is the third leader that Biden has honored with a state visit. Since becoming president, Biden has also welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for state visits.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
mutual - adj. shared between two or more people or groups
candor - n. open and sincere
origin - n. a place where a person comes from
backslide - v. to start doing something bad again after you have stopped it
status - n. official position