PM Modi’s US visit will focus on Digital India, innovation

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 03, 2016 13:53 IST

A dinner for over 200 of Silicon Valley's top honchos and visits to campuses of iconic IT firms will be the high points of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's coming visit to the US.

He will meet President Barack Obama - their third meeting in a year - before leaving for home, but it's his west-coast interactions that are likely to dominate the visit.

"If the September 2014 visit to the US was about Make in India, this visit is about Digital India," said an official in New Delhi, refusing to be identified.

The objective is to animate the hub of American innovation - as the Silicon Valley is often described - and "challenge them to come up with innovative solutions to India's problems".

The focus will be chiefly on enterprise, which is another name for innovation; technology - digital, if you must call it that, and renewable energy, a major Indian concern.

Modi's scheduled visit to the Tesla facility would stress India's quest for renewable energy sources, as would be a roundtable with the subject with other experts.

"The PM will seek to challenge them and other experts in other fields of technology to find innovative solutions to challenges faced by India," the official said.

Modi arrives in New York on September 23, where he will spend two days attending the UN general assembly, and the launch of Sustainable Millennium Goals. He will leave September 26 for Silicon Valley, the focus of his visit, and a first by an Indian PM in over 40 years - the last one was by Jawaharlal Nehru.

For the next two days, Modi is scheduled to meet top minds of the valley, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Over 200 of them - including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Cisco boss Chuck Robbins - are expected to attend a dinner the PM is hosting on September 26.

"That will be the largest gathering of Silicon Valley honchos ever convened by an Indian leader," said the source.

But it is Tesla CEO Elon Musk who is already a star with Indians. A delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry visited his automobile facility on Tuesday, and came out awed.

"We couldn't get to meet Musk but all his people whom we met were like his clones - spoke like him, and used his language," said a member of the delegation.

Modi returns the next day to New York for his third and last meeting with Obama, who will slip shortly into lame-duck status, as the 2016 presidential race picks up pace.

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