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Obama greets Modi with 'kem cho', has 'wonderful meeting'

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi began their first meeting, in a rather informal setting of a quiet dinner at the White House, with Obama greeting Modi in Gujarati, 'Kem Cho?'

india Updated: Sep 30, 2014 15:01 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
modi,narendra modi,modi in us

And they talked, and talked and talked.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama realised they had a lot in common, more than just their love of technology and early embrace as an election tool.

The two leaders began their first meeting, in a rather informal setting of a quiet dinner at the White House, with Obama greeting Modi in Gujarati, “Kem Cho.”

Without missing a beat, Modi replied, in English, “Thank you, Mr President.” And with that the two leaders began to get to know each other — they had only spoken on phone before.

Read: Modi, Obama bond over dinner, say 'Chalein saath saath' ahead of talks

The 'Kem Chho?' moment: US President Barack Obama greets Narendra Modi at the White House. (Photo courtesy: Twitter, @MEAIndia)

“We had a wonderful meeting and talked about a wide range of issues,” Modi tweeted late in the night, when Obama, by his own admission, catches up with his files.

The dinner, along with a handful of senior officials on both sides, took place in an “extremely convivial” atmosphere, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters later.

And that’s because their experiences tracked remarkably. Both leaders came to their respective capitals as outsiders — Obama came to the insular world of Beltway politics from Illinois, and Modi Raisina Hill from Gujarat.

Both were early converts to technology, and pioneers of its use in elections. And they were both struck and disappointed by the it relatively low at their new places of work.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Barack Obama at the White House dinner. (Photo courtesy: Twitter, @MEAIndia)

“Prime Minister Modi told President Obama when he moved to Delhi after taking office, he found the use of technology even less than in Gujarat,” said the spokesperson. The dinner meeting lasted 90 minutes.

The prime minister was accompanied by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and five other officials.

The president had with him vice-president Joe Biden, secretary of state John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and other officials.

First lady Michelle Obama, was not there. It was not clear if she was to attend. Officials previewing the meeting had said “that the President and First Lady are very excited and pleased to welcome the Prime Minister”. But they had said the dinner was being hosted by the president.

Modi, as expected, settled down with only a glass of water because of his Navaratri fast. But requested everyone to continue as they would with their dinners, and they did.

A spread comprising of compressed avacados, crisped halibut and saffron basmati rice were part of the menu for dinner.

Gifts for President Obama

Prime Minister Modi presented the US president a copy of Gita by Mahatma Gandhi, specially printed for Obama, bound in khadi and contained in a special box.

Obama has said he is a big believer in Gandhi. He also was inspired a lot by Martin Luther King — the second gift was recording of a speech by him when he came to India in 1959.

Also from the same visit, a picture and a video clip of Martin Luther King at Rajghat.

PM Narendra Modi gifted a special edition of Gita to US President Barack Obama. (Photo courtesy: Twitter, @MEAIndia)

First Published: Sep 30, 2014 07:56 IST