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Obama to accord red carpet welcome to Manmohan Singh

A red carpet welcome awaits Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he lands at the Andrews Air Force Base today as the first state guest of President Barack Obama for a visit that is expected to take the Indo-US strategic relationship to the next level.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2009 15:59 IST

A red carpet welcome awaits Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he lands at the Andrews Air Force Base today as the first state guest of President Barack Obama for a visit that is expected to take the Indo-US strategic relationship to the next level.

The Prime Minister, his wife Gursharan Kaur, and his delegation would be welcomed by a group of children and the Indian American community, before he drives to the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, three blocks away from White House.

Singh would be staying at the hotel instead of the historic Blair House, US President's designated guest house.

The Prime Minister's state visit actually starts on November 24 when US President Barack Obama and First Lady
Michell would personally welcome Singh and his wife at the White House and he would be given a 21-gun salute.

Singh, however, would kick-off his trip tomorrow by addressing the American business community, which is his way of acknowledging their contribution in strengthening of the US-India relationship and in particular their role in the passage of the landmark civilian nuclear deal.

There is a huge enthusiasm among the US corporate leaders with many of them flying in from various parts of the country just for this event.

Later in the evening, he would address the intellectual community at the prestigious think tank Council on Foreign Relations and would directly respond to their questions.

Several lawmakers and administration officals are also scheduled to call on Singh during his stay here, including the powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

The most significant part of the Prime Minister's trip to the US will of course be his one-on-one meeting with Obama which officials have said – would shape the direction of the Indo-US relations for the next few years.

Though the two leaders met in April on sidelines of the G-20 Summit in London and briefly at Pittsburgh's G-20 Summit, this would be for the first time they would discuss bilateral issues and possibilities of cooperation on key global issues including Pakistan, Afghanistan, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

Following the meeting between the delegations of two countries led by Singh and Obama, the two leaders are expected to address a press conference at the White House, and a joint statement reflecting the strengthening of the relationship
between the two countries would be issued.

The Prime Minister has indicated that he would seek a "more liberal" US technology transfer to India and an early implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Besides terrorism emanating from Pakistan is also expected to be high on agenda of the Singh-Obama talks. The two sides are likely to sign an MoU on counter-terrorism that will provide a framework for institutionalised cooperation particularly in intelligence sharing, sources said.

The two countries are also expected to ink MoUs in renewable energy, IPR in agriculture and announce Singh-Obama Knowledge Initiative.

The Prime Minister and the Indian delegation would also be hosted for lunch by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
Vice President Joseph Biden.

The most anticipated part of the entire trip however has been the evening of November 24, when Obama and Michell host
the first black-tie dinner for the Prime Minister.

An invitation to the dinner is believed to be the hottest ticket in Washington this week. While no official list has been announced so far, media reports say that some 400 people have been invited to the dinner, which would have the President and the First Lady's personal touch, including on the menu and entertainment.

While officials on both sides are reluctant to discuss the possible outcome of the Indo-US summit, it is widely expected that the Obama-Singh meeting would mark another milestone in the history of Indo-US relationship.

Administration officials have said it is no co-incidence that Manmohan Singh is Obama's first state guest.

In fact, Singh is one of the rarest of the world leaders who has been a State Guest twice, and in two different
administrations.

Bill Clinton had earlier invited Atal Bihari Vajpayee on a state visit in 2000.

The Prime Minister is expected to conclude his trip to the US by meeting leaders of the influential Indian American community, a large number of whom are flying to Washington from various parts of the country to attend his reception
hosted by the Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar.

Before he leaves Washington for the Commonwealth Heads of the Government meetings in Trinidad and Tobago, observers here feel the Prime Minister would leave his permanent stamp on the Indo-US relationship, taking it to the '3.0 level'.