Elisha Pulivarti from Washington DC
President Joe Biden’s invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a state visit to the US on June 22, Thursday, assumes great significance. Modi is the third Indian leader to have this privilege. President Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan got this honour in 1963, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009 and now PM Modi in 2023.
See the time gaps – Dr Radhakrishnan had a state visit to the US in 1963, 16 years after India got its Independence, and Dr Manmohan Singh had to wait for 46 years to get this invitation. Of course, Modi got this invitation 14 years after his predecessor Dr Singh had it .These timelines tell us a lot about US – India relations over the years. In the initial decades after Independence, India under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi remained an ally of Soviet Union.
In those days of Cold War, Nehru adopted a policy of non-alignment but mostly stayed closer to Soviet Union. Diplomatic ties between the US and India were there but too far in between. The situation changed after Manmohan Singh signed Indo- US civilian nuclear deal in 2008, risking his government’s survival as the Left withdrew support to him as a mark of protest. The next year after signing the deal, Singh got invitation for a state visit to the Us.
During his 10 years in office, PM Manmohan Singh visited the US eight times. Modi so far visited six times and June 22 will be his seventh visit to the US. Unless he gets re-elelcted in 2024, Modi cannot surpass Manmohan’s record. Still, Modi government is more proactively engaged with the US than that of Manmohan Singh’s Congress government. With or without the Left support, Congress always had some reservations about the US, in its foreign policy.
A major reason is Congress which never wanted to antagonize Muslims in India always maintained some distance from Israel, a close ally of the US. But, PM Modi’s BJP which goes all out to have stronger ties with Israel is naturally liked by the US. Of course, some sections of Biden’s Democrats have reservations about BJP’s policy towards minorities like Muslims and Christians in India. That’s a separate thing.
Biden: “Modi more popular in America”
President Biden in his meeting with PM Modi at Quad summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 21, Sunday remarked in lighter vein that: “PM Modi is more popular in American and this has created a problem to me. More and more people are asking for an invitation for a state dinner at White House on June 22″. True, more Indian Americans as well as others are vying with each other to get an invitation to the state dinner at White House.
The South Lawns of White House where the state dinner is rolled out to PM Modi will only accommodate around 300 – 350 guests. But, there is a demand to be invited to this gala dinner from not less than 2,000 VIPs. The White House just can’t accommodate this many people. We need to see how many can be invited to the state dinner. A state dinner at White House is a dream invitation for many Indian Americans, they cannot afford to miss it out.
Efforts are underway to organize some more events where both Modi and Biden can jointly appear. India’s top leaders including External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, Indian Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and India’s NSA Ajit Doval are working to see how Modi’s visit to the US can also include an address to the US congress’ joint session. For that, they are also trying to talk to House Speaker Republican leader Kevin Mc Carthy.