The US-India relationship is set to be one of the most defining ones of the 21st century, US President Joe Biden said, welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House for bilateral talks on Thursday as the two leaders prepared to announce major deals in areas including defence, semi-conductors, and the hi-tech sector.

“The challenges and opportunities facing the world in this century require that India and the United States work and lead together,” the US President said.

The Indian Prime Minister was given a red carpet welcome and a military salute at the White House as an estimated 7,000 Indian-Americans stood on the South Lawn to watch.

Modi, who spoke in Hindi, said that the strong strategic partnership between the two countries was a clear proof of the power of democracy. 

“This grand welcome ceremony at the White House today is an honour and pride for the 1.4 billion people of India. This is also an honour for more than 4 million people of Indian origin living in the US. For this honour, I express my heartfelt gratitude to President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden,” Modi said.

He said both countries were proud of their diversity and believed in the welfare of all.

Modi is on a four-day visit to the US, covering New York and Washinton DC, where he has held extensive meetings with political leaders, thinktanks, industry representatives, and members of the diaspora. He will leave for Egypt on Friday on an official visit.

Big agreements being signed between India and the US during Modi’s visit include GE’s pact with HAL for joint production of F414 engines and US chip giant Micron’s decision to invest $800 million in a semiconductor assembly and testing plant in India. New Delhi is also expected to purchase high-precision armed drones, the MQ-9B SeaGuardians, from the US.

Modi will also address a joint session of Congress and then attend a gala dinner at the White House.

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The US was India’s biggest trading partner in FY23 at $128.55 billion, with China in second position. India’s exports to the US increased by 2.81 per cent (year-on-year) to $78.31 billion in 2022–23, while imports grew by about 16 per cent to $50.24 billion.