Friday, November 27, 2009

Manmohan Singh meets Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama toasted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the lawns of the White House at the first state dinner of his presidency to celebrate the "friendship" between India and the US. "Aapka Swagat Hai (you are welcome)," said Obama in Hindi.

A.R. Rahman’s live performance of 'Jai Ho' from the multiple award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire resonated in the Whitehouse marquee during the predominantly vegetarian dinner. Indian dancers performed to the music of A.R. Rahman. The 300-plus strong guest list at the state dinner included some of the most powerful and talented Indians and Americans. Actors Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood, legendary director and producer Steven Spielberg, Hollywood filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, Indian music composer and singer A.R. Rahman, writer Jhumpa Lahiri, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, author Thomas Friedman and new age guru Deepak Chopra were some of the celebrity guests. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Obama's aides like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, senior advisor and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs Valerie Jarrett were among those present at the gathering. Indian billionaires Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, Indian-Americans like Indra Nooyi, Anish Goel, South Asia expert in Obama's National Security Council Rajat Gupta were the other notable guests.

Dr. Manmohan Singh said the two countries must find new pathways of international cooperation that respond more effectively to grave challenges confronting the world, and said, "A strong and sustained engagement between our two countries is good for our people and the world. We are embarking on a new phase of our partnership".

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