Indian PM Narendra Modi meets Obama at White House

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Media captionThe BBC's Brajesh Upadhyay: "Narendra Modi is exactly the kind of assertive leader who can rebuild this flagging partnership"

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met US President Barack Obama at the White House over dinner, ahead of formal talks on Tuesday.

The two leaders "exchanged anecdotes about their first few days in office, to see if they had anything in common", India's foreign ministry said.

Earlier, Mr Modi met the CEOs of top global firms in New York in an effort to persuade them to invest in India.

He assured them that he was committed to liberalising the economy.

Mr Modi is on his first trip to America since being elected in May, after the US lifted a visa ban brought in on grounds of religious intolerance.

The former chief minister of Gujarat has always denied wrongdoing during riots in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

'Convivial, comforting'

As well as the president, Mr Modi met Vice-President Joe Biden and other top US officials at the White House dinner reception on Monday night.

A foreign ministry spokesman described the conversation between the two leaders as "convivial and comforting".

President Obama greeted Mr Modi with "Kem chho?" (How are you?) in his mother tongue Gujarati and Mr Modi responded in English with "Thank you very much Mr President", Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.

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Media captionThe BBC's Nick Bryant on Narendra Modi's reception in New York

Mr Modi gifted the president a copy of Gita, one of the most revered texts of Hinduism, a rare photo of Martin Luther King at Rajghat, the memorial of India's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, and a copy of a speech he gave in India, he added.

The Indian leader did not eat at the dinner as he is observing a nine-day religious fast, but he told President Obama to "please go ahead as normal" while he sipped warm water, officials said.

The two leaders are due to hold official talks on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, the prime minister met top American business leaders to seek investments to drive India's manufacturing sector.

On Sunday, he addressed thousands of Indian-Americans with a speech at Madison Square Garden.

Mr Modi told the crowd that the 21st Century was "Asia's century" and repeated his promise to cut red tape, develop infrastructure and make it easier for companies to do business in India.

Analysts say Mr Modi's visit has generated huge excitement among Indian Americans who believe that he could help portray India as a rising global power.

Image copyright Geeta Pandey -Internet
Image caption Prime Minister Modi met President Obama at the White House dinner reception on Monday night
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Modi's visit has generated huge excitement among Indian Americans
Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Modi told the crowd at Madison Square Garden that the 21st Century was "Asia's century"
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Audiences waved Indian flags and held balloons during the speech

Delhi and Washington have strong security and trade ties, but relations have deteriorated in recent months.

Among the issues causing tension are:

  • India's refusal to sign a global trade deal
  • A row over alleged American surveillance on the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
  • A diplomatic spat involving an Indian envoy to the US

On the first day of his visit, Mr Modi used a speech to the UN to renew his country's call for reform of the Security Council.

India has long lobbied for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Mr Modi also said he wanted peace talks with Pakistan but insisted it should create an "appropriate atmosphere".

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