Modi to meet Obama in September



Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Washington for his first meeting with President Barack Obama in September, media reports said, as the two leaders look to re-build strained ties.

Modi, who assumed office last month after a landslide election victory, has accepted the invitation from Obama for discussions and the dates for the meeting were being finalized, the Times of India newspaper said.

The Hindustan Times said the Indian side had asked for the meeting to be held on September 26, around the time of Modi’s maiden address at the UN General Assembly.

“All pending bilateral issues will be discussed in the one-day meeting as Modi is keen to push the relationship forward for its economic returns for India,” the English-language daily said, quoting sources.

The election of the Hindu nationalist Modi, 63, posed a headache for the United States which refused him a visa in 2005 when he was chief minister of Gujarat.

The refusal stemmed from claims that he turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim riots in the western state of India, three years earlier that killed some 1,000 people. Modi denies the allegations.

A senior official in the Indian foreign ministry refused to comment on the reports about the meeting in Washington but said a press statement was likely to be issued later in the day.

Relations between Washington and New Delhi were thrown into crisis by the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York on charges of breaking visa laws by underpaying her maid last December.

The episode, which drew a furious reaction from New Delhi, was a blow to efforts to build a strategic partnership between the world’s biggest democracies who both view China’s rise with suspicion.

Modi has displayed no rancour publicly about the visa ban by Washington, telling an interviewer before his election that foreign relations “should not and cannot be influenced by incidents related to individuals”.

His top campaign promise has been on the economy, and he courted Western investors in Gujarat even while governments shunned him