Red carpet welcome by Obama awaits Manmohan Singh

Red carpet welcome by Obama awaits Manmohan Singh

Washington: A red carpet welcome awaits Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he lands at the Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday as the first state guest of President Barack Obama for a visit that is expected to take the Indo-US strategic relationship to the next level.

The Prime Minister, his wife Gursharan Kaur, and his delegation would be welcomed by a group of children and the Indian American community, before he drives to the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, three blocks away from White House.

Singh would be staying at the hotel instead of the historic Blair House, US President’s designated guest house.

The Prime Minister’s state visit actually starts on November 24 when US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michell would personally welcome Singh and his wife at the White House and he would be given a 21-gun salute.

Singh, however, would kick-off his trip tomorrow by addressing the American business community, which is his way of acknowledging their contribution in strengthening of the US-India relationship and in particular their role in the passage of the landmark civilian nuclear deal.

There is a huge enthusiasm among the US corporate leaders with many of them flying in from various parts of the country just for this event.

Later in the evening, he would address the intellectual community at the prestigious think tank Council on Foreign Relations and would directly respond to their questions.

The two countries are also expected to ink MoUs in renewable energy, IPR in agriculture and announce Singh-Obama Knowledge Initiative.

The Prime Minister and the Indian delegation would also be hosted for lunch by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joseph Biden.

The most anticipated part of the entire trip however has been the evening of 24 November, when Obama and Michell host the first black-tie dinner for the Prime Minister.

An invitation to the dinner is believed to be the hottest ticket in Washington this week.

While no official list has been announced so far, media reports say that some 400 people have been invited to the dinner, which would have the President and the First Lady’s personal touch, including on the menu and entertainment.

While officials on both sides are reluctant to discuss the possible outcome of the Indo-US summit, it is widely expected that the Obama-Singh meeting would mark another milestone in the history of Indo-US relationship.

Administration officials have said it is no co-incidence that Manmohan Singh is Obama’s first state guest.

In fact, Singh is one of the rarest of the world leaders who has been a State Guest twice, and in two different administrations.

Bill Clinton had earlier invited Atal Bihari Vajpayee on a state visit in 2000.

The Prime Minister is expected to conclude his trip to the US by meeting leaders of the influential Indian American community, a large number of whom are flying to Washington from various parts of the country to attend his reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar.

Before he leaves Washington for the Commonwealth Heads of the Government meetings in Trinidad and Tobago, observers here feel the Prime Minister would leave his permanent stamp on the Indo-US relationship, taking it to the ‘3.0 level´.