Home >Politics >Policy >Obama to join Modi in ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address
Prime minister Narendra Modi said people should become part of ‘this memorable ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, illustrating a special bond between India and USA’. Photo: Reuters
Prime minister Narendra Modi said people should become part of ‘this memorable ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, illustrating a special bond between India and USA’. Photo: Reuters

Obama to join Modi in ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address

Modi has also invited questions from people for the special edition of 'Mann Ki Baat' with Obama

New Delhi: After a gap of over one month when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address Mann Ki Baat on All India Radio (AIR) on 27 January, he will be accompanied by a special guest, US President Barack Obama.

Modi had invited Obama in November 2014 to be the chief guest for the Republic Day function on 26 January.

“This month’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ episode will be a special one, where our Republic Day guest Barack Obama and I will share our thoughts together. I am eagerly looking forward to the special ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme with President Barack Obama, which will be aired on 27 January," said Modi in a series of tweets on Thursday.

Obama and his wife Michelle are expected to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday. Obama is the first US president to visit India both during his first and second terms. He is also the first US president to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade.

US commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, US trade representative Michael Froman and Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in US House of Representatives, will be part of Obama’s delegation, said Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security advisor said at a media briefing in Washington early Thursday.

“I do not think President Obama has attended any national day ceremonies as president. I’m fairly confident of that. But again, it’s a unique event, but it’s I think of great symbolic importance, given the US-India history and given the importance of Republic Day in India. And so that’s why he was more than pleased to accept the invitation," said Rhodes in response to a question, according to a transcript provided by the US embassy in New Delhi.

Interestingly, Modi has also invited questions from people for the special edition of Mann Ki Baat with Obama. It “will not be complete without your participation. Send your questions till the 25 January," Modi tweeted.

He also said people should become part of “this memorable ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, illustrating a special bond between India and the US."

During Modi’s visit to the US in September last year, Obama and Modi had written a joint opinion piece in The Washington Post.

Political analysts say this is a new kind of exposure that will be given to Obama to directly speak to the people of the country. “It is interesting that both leaders of the country have been able to use media to a large extent," said P.K. Datta, a Delhi-based political analyst.

The prime minister has so far addressed three programmes of Mann Ki Baat, in which he has raised crucial issues like drugs and narcotics, black money stashed in foreign banks, the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission, skill development, programmes for children with special needs and encouraging use of khadi.

Meanwhile, officials of both sides were trying to resolve differences that would allow India and the US to engage in nuclear commerce including the building of atomic power plants, ahead of Obama’s arrival in New Delhi.

India and the US had signed a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation pact in 2008, but the two haven’t been able to engage in nuclear commerce mainly due to the stringent provisions of the nuclear liability law that India passed in 2010. According to the provisions of the Indian liability law, suppliers rather than operators are liable to compensate victims of any nuclear accident.

According to the foreign ministry, officials of the two countries were engaged in a second day of talks on Thursday to resolve the impasse in London.

“This is the third time that the contact group set up by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama are meeting in the last two months," Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for foreign ministry, told reporters.

“As far as India is concerned, nuclear is an important component of our energy mix. It’s a low-carbon form of energy. Therefore, we see it as an extremely important ingredient in our energy mix and therefore we are engaged with the US on discussing this issue," he said.

According to Akbaruddin, Obama’s 25-27 January visit is one of the “most important diplomatic engagements". The visit comes four months after Modi’s meeting with Obama in Washington in September—a visit that was seen as mending relations after a series of disputes.

Both sides will also be discussing a bilateral investment treaty. Modi and Obama would also be addressing business representatives of both sides.

“India’s development is the primary and the topmost priority of our foreign policy and we see US as a key partner in that development including through possible technology transfer, possible investment and capital, through sharing of knowledge, skills," said Akbaruddin.

Ben Rhodes in Washington said that Obama’s visit comes at a time “when we have a growing agenda with India".

Trade, investment, climate change, energy, counter-terrorism, regional security challenges—including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan—will be on the agenda of talks, said Rhodes.

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