Jaishankar, Blinken meet in Hiroshima, discuss plans for PM’s U.S. visit in June

Retreat with President Biden outside Washington, diaspora events on the cards; Secretary of State says the U.S. is looking forward to hosting Prime Minister Modi, whose visit will celebrate the deep partnership between the two countries; it will be the first state visit for an Indian PM since 2009

As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Hiroshima on Sunday, the two sides discussed plans for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. in June, with sources saying a number of possible plans, including a “short retreat” outside Washington, were still being finalised.

“We look forward to hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, whose visit will celebrate the deep partnership between the United States and India,” Mr. Blinken said in a tweet, which Mr. Jaishankar thanked him for.

At the Quad meeting held on the sidelines of the G-7 summit on Saturday, U.S. President Biden also reportedly referred to the upcoming visit.

According to the BJP’s National Information & Technology Department in-charge, Amit Malviya, who tweeted that Mr. Biden heaped “fawning praise” on Mr. Modi, the U.S. President said that there was a “huge demand from people across U.S. to attend the state dinner next month”, joking that he should seek Mr. Modi’s “autograph”.

Neither the External Affairs Ministry nor the U.S. Embassy in Delhi confirmed the remarks by the U.S. President in Hiroshima.

Ceremonial welcome

While the state visit, the first for an Indian Prime Minister since 2009, will include a ceremonial welcome at the White House and a state banquet, the visiting dignitaries are also often accorded a lunch at the State Department [to meet with the Vice-President and the Secretary of State].

Last month, India Caucus co-chair Ro Khanna confirmed he was writing to the U.S. Speaker to request that Mr. Modi also address the U.S. Congress. In addition, the Prime Minister, who will reach Washington on June 22, ahead of the official events on June 23, is expected to address a large gathering of U.S. CEOs and Chambers of Commerce, and attend a reception for the Indian diaspora organised by the Indian Embassy.

Earlier, the BJP’s overseas wing and diaspora groups were looking into possible diaspora events in Chicago or Atlanta, but sources said there was “no clarity” on whether a large diaspora event on the lines of the 2018 “Howdy Modi” address in Houston would be included.

Short trip

Sources also said that the two governments were discussing a short trip outside Washington by Mr. Biden and Mr. Modi. According to the sources, officials have discussed the possibility of the two leaders travelling to the U.S. presidential retreat for hosting foreign dignitaries at Camp David, or Mr. Biden’s private vacation home on Rehoboth beach.

“The programme is evolving, and details are not finalised yet,” said at least two officials involved in planning the visit.

In the past, Mr. Modi has shared such “retreat” sojourns with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Schloss Meseberg palace outside Berlin, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at Chequers, Russian President Vladimir Putin at his dacha in Sochi, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan.

Mr. Modi will be the third state guest that Mr. Biden will host during his presidency, after French President Emmanuel Macron in December 2022 and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Mr. Blinken’s meeting with Mr. Jaishankar also came a week after India sharply rejected a U.S. State Department report on international religious freedom that criticised the Modi government for the “continued targeting of minorities” in India.

External Affairs Ministry officials on Thursday sidestepped a question on whether the issue would be raised during the India-U.S. bilateral.