Prime Minister Narendra Modi got down to business on Friday as he began his five-day visit to the US by meeting New York mayor Bill de Blasio over urban issues and discussing health matters with Nobel laureate oncologist Harold Varmus.Before that in a rare gesture, Modi briefly stepped out of his convoy to greet cheering Indians who had gathered outside his hotel to welcome him on his arrival to the US.
As Modi plunged into the crowd of fans to respond to their warm welcome of chants of "Modi", "Modi" and placards greeting him with different messages outside his hotel, the Prime Minister left the security officials in New York scurrying after him.
Modi greeted everyone with a namaste and also waved at the crowd, while walking across them outside the barricade of the enclosure.
Modi's disregard for security was in contrast to New York City's security consciousness.
He then walked inside the New York Palace Hotel in Manhattan where he will be staying till September 29 before moving to Washington.
Focus on urban rejuvenation
Modi, in his first official engagement after arriving in New York, met the city's mayor during which the issues related to large cities, especially common threats of terror, policing, public housing and crowd management in the events like the Kumbh mela were discussed.
The meeting was also aimed at understanding how the New York Police metamorphosed after the 9/11 terror attacks in which over 3,000 people were killed and landmark twin towers of World Trade Center were destroyed.
"The Prime Minister wanted to understand what are the issues that he faces, because he is extremely keen on trying to rejuvenate our urban spaces too," ministry of external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.
He added that crowd management in big cities and at big events like Kumbh mela were also discussed to understand the practices adopted by the New York city government.
Discussions were focused on matters related to public housing, he said, adding that New York City is planning to build some half a million houses in 10 years.
In his meeting with the New York Mayor, discussion also focused on issues related to steps taken to improve the quality of life in New York and in this regard the anti- smoking laws in both the countries also figured.
The Prime Minister, he said, was also keen to understand the security steps taken by the city following 9/11.
"There was a fairly detailed discussion on this. In this context they also discussed common threats faced by big cities in terms of terror threats," Akbaruddin said.
Prime Minister also referred to how New York City could assist Indian cities in handling large crowd, he said.
"Of course the Mayor did understand the magnitude in terms of large gatherings, far exceeded what they were handling for example India's Kumbh mela. The meeting lasted for about half an hour," he added.
Modi also had a meeting with Nobel laureate and eminent cancer specialist Professor Varmus and invited him to visit India to assist in health and public care research.
During his 30-minute interaction with Modi, the two discussed a wide range of public health care issues, including those related to cancer research, vaccine and possibilities of research in India.
"The Prime Minister invited him to visit India on a regular basis. The professor congratulated Modi on the laws in India on anti-smoking," the MEA spokesperson told reporters.
Interestingly, 74-year-old Varmus, who is the director of the US National cancer Institute, did his apprenticeship in a mission hospital in Bareilly in the 1960s.
He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes in 1989.
On Saturday, Modi will address the UN, visit the 9/11 memorial and meet UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon and at least two heads of state, Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladesh's Sheikh Hasina.
Sunday will be dedicated mostly to meetings with the Indian American community, including the event at the iconic Madison Square Garden, and global CEOs.
Modi will meet Obama for the first time — they have only spoken on phone so far — on Monday over dinner at the White House and again for bilateral talks the next day.
They will discuss an entire range of issues but also, importantly, try to build a personal rapport while sharing their visions for the two countries.
His discussions with Obama will cover issues from trade, defence and security issues to India’s economic growth, climate change and current international challenges such as ISIS.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)
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