M A I N   N E W S

In US, Modi to mark his global arrival
PM reaches New York
To address UN General Assembly today
All eyes on talks with Obama, corporate honchos
Raj Chengappa in New York

After a day of heavy rain that disrupted life in New York, the sun shone brightly when Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at the John F Kennedy International Airport on Friday afternoon to begin what is undoubtedly a historic trip to the US that will not only signal his formal arrival on the world stage but also reinvigorate India’s relations with the globe’s most powerful country.

With threats of ISIS attacking the New York metro being received, his convoy headed to his hotel in Manhattan under heavy security. Police cars with wailing sirens brought traffic in the busy downtown area to a standstill. The Prime Minister’s visit promises to be a showstopper for other reasons too.

For the next five days, he has a jam-packed itinerary consisting of 35 meetings with the high and mighty of the world, including an address to the UN General Assembly, a summit with US President Barack Obama, meetings with head honchos of US business giants and a slew of functions with the Indian diaspora.

Outside the UN Headquarters, around the time that Modi checked into the New York Palace Hotel, protests marred Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address to the General Assembly, as supporters of Opposition leader Imran Khan, former cricketer-turned-critic, raised slogans demanding his removal. In contrast, Modi is expected to get a hero’s welcome when he addresses the UN tomorrow, an event that has already generated immense curiosity and interest.

Modi will deliver his address in the UN in Hindi, as did NDA’s first Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. But in this ‘Parliament of the world’ he will enunciate his world view on a range of issues with his characteristic oratorical flourish that is likely to be shorn of monotonous platitude and pledges and instead be a strident call for a new global order. It will include a forceful push for giving India its rightful place at the head table of the nations by making it a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council.

In fact, everything that Modi has lined up to do on this trip appears to have been planned with a great deal of thought and for maximum effect. Early Saturday morning, he will pay homage to the victims of 9/11, many of whom were Indians, at the Ground Zero memorial. Officials say the event is to symbolise Modi’s commitment to tackle terror threats with a firm hand.

His address to the UN soon after is designed to project him as a leader that the world will now have to reckon with.

In a departure from protocol, Modi on the same day will address the Global Citizens Festival at Central Park that attracts a huge cross-section of US civil society. He will also meet members of the powerful American-Jewish lobby. Modi will have a separate meeting with representatives and organisations of the North American Sikh community belonging to both the US and Canada.

A series of functions and meetings have also been arranged to demonstrate Modi’s solidarity to the Indian diaspora. Top on the list is an unconventional political rally being held by his supporters at the Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

It is already houseful with over 20,000 supporters picking up tickets. With over a dozen Congressmen expected to be present, Modi will make something akin to a victory speech that American politicians do after an election. Later, the Indian Ambassador to the US is hosting a dinner where a large number of prominent PIOs and NRIs have been invited. He will also meet with a select group of 10 distinguished PIOs.

On Monday, before leaving for Washington DC, he will meet over 30 top US business leaders where he will reiterate his “Come Make in India” pitch and reassure them that his government will do no U-turns in policy that has frightened away investors in the past.

The Prime Minister will meet former US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary who is being projected as a front-runner for the next Presidential elections.

He will also meet with intellectuals of the powerful Council of Foreign Relations who will have a chance to quiz him on his emerging foreign policy initiatives. When he lands in DC Monday evening, he will head for a private dinner with President Barack Obama where the two are expected to have a frank exchange of views on a range of issues. On Tuesday morning, he will pay homage at the memorial to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King meant, as an official said, “to symbolise his commitment to democracy, plurality and inclusive growth”.

He will then have a formal two-hour summit with Obama and his team where they are expected to discuss how to pull the relations out of the rut that it has fallen to in recent times and give it a fresh impetus. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will jointly host a lunch for him. A meeting with the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives is on the anvil.

Before he departs for India, the Prime Minister will address over 250 members of the US Indian Business Council where he will again reiterate his message to come invest and make in India. If the Prime Minister is rushing back to India after spending only a day in DC, it is because he wants to be on time for Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary celebrations on October 2 where he will formally launch the “Swachh Bharat” (Clean India) mission.

PM’s schedule

Saturday: Visit to Ground Zero memorial; Address at the UN General Assembly; Address at the Global Citizens Festival at Central Park; Meeting with representatives of the North American Sikh community

Sunday: Address at Madison Square Garden; Meeting with PIOs and NRIs

Monday: Separate meetings with US business leaders, former US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, and intellectuals of the Council of Foreign Relations; Fly to Washington DC; Attend dinner with President Barack Obama

Tuesday: Visit to memorial to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King; Two-hour summit with Obama; Meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, besides leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives; Leave for India in the evening









New York Diary
Modi is now persona grata and how

When New York Mayor Bill de Blasio calls on Modi to welcome him to America’s Maximum City, it would be poetic justice. The US in the past treated Modi like a pariah for a decade by denying him a visa for alleged human rights violations when he was Gujarat’s Chief Minister. The change is now obvious. When he goes to Washington DC next week, US President Barack Obama will accord him the rare privilege of having a private dinner with him at The White House. Right through the trip, Modi would be feted and lauded by a range of institutions that had once viewed his track record dimly. While this is sweet revenge, the PM himself is keen on not harking on the difficult past but instead wants to focus on new beginnings.

Business, business & business

When a senior official was asked what would be the focus of the Modi’s visit to the US, he said emphatically: “Business, business and business.” With Modi keen on getting US investors to fund his vast infrastructural plans to develop India, including smart cities, a wide range of top businessmen has been invited to several meetings that he will address both in New York and Washington DC. Among the CEOs who he is likely to meet in NY are those of the Boeing Company, IBM, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Google, Cargill, Citi, Pespsi, Wargburg Pincus, Caterpillar, Merck and Carlyle Group. Modi would also address a gathering of over 250 members of the US-India Business Council in Washington DC where he would again reiterate his call of “Come Make in India.”

Neighbours still first

On the sidelines of the UNGA, Modi will reinforce his “neighbours first” policy by holding bilateral meetings with the Sri Lankan President and the Bangladesh and Nepal Prime Ministers. With Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina Wajid missing out on his swearing-in ceremony, it would be a chance for the two leaders to sort out the vexatious issues coming in the way of good relations. Bangladesh is still miffed that the Land Boundary Agreement is still not ratified by the Indian Parliament and the sharing of Teesta waters hangs in balance.

Fishing in troubled waters

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has watery concerns with India of a different kind. He told The Tribune that he was looking forward to his meeting with Modi whom he thinks is a doer. Among the issues that he would raise are South Indian fishermen using Norwegian trawlers to catch huge amount of fish near the Sri Lankan coast even crossing territorial waters. Rajapakse feels the issue needs to be sorted out as Sri Lankan fishermen, particularly of Tamil origin, are complaining of the depleting catch.




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