President Pratibha Patil on Monday night described the visit of United States President Barack Obama as a “historic milestone,” who in turn responded by saying being in India was “an experience” and not merely a visit.
Welcoming Obama and his wife, Michelle, at the banquet hosted in their honour at the tastefully illuminated historic Mughal Gardens in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Patil said his visit comes at a time when the relations between India and the US seem to be getting stronger.
“Nearly three million people of Indian origin in the US act as a bridge of friendship, including over 1,00,000 Indian students in the US, who along with the growing number of young Americans coming to India, are sowing the seeds of future partnerships,” Patil said.
The President said the two countries had built a strong strategic partnership on “the solid bedrock” of shared ideals and common interests.
“The historic civil nuclear initiative is an instrument and a symbol of our transformed relations,” she said.
Obama once again thanked the Indian public for the warm welcome accorded to him and his wife wherever they went. He appeared to be in a jovial mood and referred to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh as “his friend”, with whom he could even go on a holiday.
“From humble beginnings to the high office, your life is an example in itself,” Obama said praising Singh.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Michelle Obama and President’s husband Devisingh Shekhawat were seated on the high table along with Obama, Patil and Singh.
Around 125 guests, including cabinet ministers, opposition leaders and top business personalities were present on the occasion, the preparations for which were personally supervised by President Patil.
She took the Rashtrapati Bhavan staff by surprise in the afternoon by stepping into the Mughal gardens to take stock of the preparations.
Patil oversaw all the arrangements and gave last minute instructions for the high profile event, said an official.