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Obama's tribute to Hindi: From 'Namaste' to 'Swagat'

Seeking to strike a chord with Indians, US President Barack Obama twice turned to Hindi as he hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the White House.

world Updated: Dec 03, 2009 13:40 IST

Seeking to strike a chord with Indians, US President Barack Obama twice turned to Hindi as he hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the White House.

The 48-year-old American leader set the mood for the day when he greeted everyone at the beginning of a joint press conference with Singh with a traditional Indian "Namaste".

He went on to describe India as a "rising and responsible" power and voiced confidence that it will assume its rightful place as a global leader in this century.

In the evening, as he raised the toast along with Singh at the high-profile state dinner, the first black American President reached out to India by greeting the audience in Hindi with "Aapka Swagat Hai" (you are welcome).

While Singh wished the Americans -"a happy Thanksgiving," marked on the fourth Thursday of November in the US, Obama pointed out that the White House had celebrated both Diwali and the birthday of Guru Nanak for the first time this year.

"Tonight, we gather again, for the first State Dinner of my presidency -- with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs Gursharan Kaur, as we celebrate the great and growing partnership between the United States and India," he said.

Obama said the bond between India and the US includes more than two million Indian-Americans who enrich every corner of the US -- leaders in government, science, industry and the arts -- "some of whom join us tonight".

The joint statement by the two leaders also mentioned the "vibrant linkages between their peoples, which are a unique asset for both countries, and are reflected in the role played by the Indian-American community."