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Trump celebrates Diwali in Oval Office with a shout out to Modi

Donald Trump lit a diya as he celebrated Diwali in the White House with the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, and other Indian-Americans.

world Updated: Oct 18, 2017 20:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Washington
Diwali at the White House,US President Donald Trump,Nikki Haley
President Donald Trump seen celebrating Diwali in the White House with US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley and Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalabh Kumar in a screengrab from a video posted on his official Facebook page.(Facebook)

President Donald Trump lit a diya to celebrate Diwali in the Oval Office with a group of Indian-Americans from his administration, including ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and members of the community, as he made a nod to a “very strong relationship” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, top donor to the Trump campaign and Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalabh Kumar and his family were also present, according to those who attended.

Barack Obama was the first president to celebrate Diwali in the White House - in 2009, his first year in office - by lighting a diya, and this grew into a major celebration over the years. First lady Michelle Obama learnt Bollywood dance steps for the White House celebration in 2013.

“Today, I was deeply honoured to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community - to celebrate Diwali - the Hindu festival of lights,” Trump said in brief remarks from behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday, flanked by his guests.

“As we do so, we especially remember the people of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy.

“I greatly value my very strong relationship with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi,” he added.

Watch | Video of President Trump celebrating Diwali in the White House

Modi and Trump have met twice so far, the first time in the White House in June, and have spoken on phone several times. They are likely to meet again next month on the sidelines of the Asean meeting in Manila.

“Our Indian-American neighbours and friends have made incredible contributions to our country – and to the world. You have made extraordinary contributions to art, science, medicine, business and education. America is especially thankful for its many Indian-American citizens who serve BRAVELY in our armed forces and as first responders in communities throughout our great land,” Trump said.

“The lighting of the diya is typically celebrated by families in their homes. Today, we proudly celebrate this holiday in THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE. In so doing, we reaffirm that Indian-Americans and Hindu-Americans are truly cherished, treasured and beloved members of our great American FAMILY.”

First Published: Oct 18, 2017 17:46 IST