Obama to meet with new India leader next week

WASHINGTON — President Obama hosts one of his more unique summits next week.


He welcomes the new leader of India, a man previously denied a U.S. visa for more than a decade, and the guest of honor at a White House dinner even though he is on a religious fast.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the White House on Monday and Tuesday, his first trip since winning a landslide election in May.

Obama and Modi will talk about ways to strengthen the “strategic partnership” between the United States and India, including common ways to accelerate economic growth and improving national security, a White House statement said.

“They will also focus on regional issues, including current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, where India and the United States can work together with partners towards a positive outcome,” the White House said.

The summit is quite a turnabout for Modi.

The United States denied him a visa for years over claims he did nothing to stop religious riots when he led the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

On Thursday, a federal court in New York issued a summons ordering Modi to respond to a lawsuit accusing him of human rights abuses. Modi is in New York this weekend for United Nations meetings.

The court order is little more than a symbolic gesture; sitting heads of state enjoy immunity from U.S. lawsuits.

Modi’s visit coincides with the Hindu festival of Navratri. While he has a Monday dinner with Obama — and a Tuesday lunch with Vice President Biden — Modi plans to fortify himself with tea and lemonade with honey.

Obama and Modi have formal meetings Tuesday.

Part of Modi’s agenda: Seeking American help for India’s $1 trillion infrastructure development plan. The Indian leader also has meetings scheduled with leaders of the U.S. private sector.

A group of U.S. business associations, meanwhile, is urging Obama to press Modi to remove Indian trade barriers on sectors like agriculture and telecommunications.

In a letter to the president, the organization called the Alliance for Fair Trade with India said Modi came to office pledging to make his country “open for business,” but since then the new government has “produced troubling policies of its own.”