US media plays up Indian PM's Washington visit to the hilt

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Washington, Nov.26 (ANI): Visits by heads of government or state to the United States usually don't occupy much space in the American media, especially on their front pages and in times of global economic distress, but this visit by the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, as President Barack Obama's first State Guest has seen the American fourth estate playing it up, certifying the rarity of the event.

Most of the papers in the United States have trained their focus on the State Dinner hosted by the Obamas, and the body language coming out of the event, according to the media, suggests that ties between New Delhi and Washington are on a roll and at a significant high, a development that could never have been envisaged till about a decade ago.

Here are some of the comments appearing in prominent print and electronic media of the United States.

The Los Angeles Times says that President Obama's glittering state dinner for the Prime Minister of India "was a platform to lavish attention on a key strategic ally."

"It also underscored the emergence of Indian-Americans as civic and political leaders, and increasingly important sources of campaign money for both Democrats and Republicans. The 320-person guest list for Tuesday's event was in some ways a traditional amalgam of politicians, diplomats, celebrities and heavyweight presidential campaign donors. It included Hollywood movie moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, as well as members of Obama's Chicago inner circle of fundraisers, among them Penny Pritzker, chairwoman of his national campaign finance committee, and Paula and Jim Crown, who ran his Illinois finance committee."

It further goes on to say that "the dozens of Indian-Americans on the list attested to that group's (communities) heightened profile. They included Indra Nooyi, the chief executive of PepsiCo Inc.; author Deepak Chopra; TV medical journalist Dr. Sanjay Gupta; and Louisiana Republican-and possible 2012 Obama challenger-Governor Bobby Jindal.

The L.A. Times says that President Obama took the unprecedented step of reassuring the Indian Prime Minister "that the partnership between their two countries would be one of the defining relationships of the 21st century."

Presidents of both parties have used state dinners to reward donors, and Tuesday's event appeared to be no exception. The invitation list included at least 28 top Obama campaign donors, known as bundlers because they assemble or bundleontributions from multiple sources.

Tuesday's fete was the seventh state dinner in honor of India since a 1963 dinner hosted by President John F. Kennedy, and it came at a delicate moment in relations between the world's two largest democracies, it concludes.

The Washington Post says that Obama's decision to host his first state dinner for the Indian Prime Minister reflects "the high esteem in which I and the American people hold your wise leadership. It reflects the abiding bonds of respect and friendship between our people, including our friends in the Indian-American community who join us here today."

The president said: "But above all, your visit, at this pivotal moment in history, speaks to the opportunity before us-to build the relationship between our nations, born in the last century, into one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."

"In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region," Obama said, adding "the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia."

According to the paper, Obama's statement appeared crafted to "assuage fears in the sometimes prickly nation that his administration is less committed than his predecessor's (George W. Bush) to a strong relationship with New Delhi."

Singh, according to the paper, used the opportunity of his meeting with Obama and other officials of his administration to highlight the fact that while "India and America are separated by distance, they are bound together by the values of democracy, pluralism, rule of law and respect for fundamental human freedoms."

"Over the years, we have built upon these values and created a partnership that is based upon both principle and pragmatism. I've come today to build upon these successes and to strengthen our multifaceted relationship," the paper further quotes Singh, as saying.

The amount of pomp associated with the many events linked to the Indian Prime Minister's visit, according to the paper, "was just enough to give rise to goose bumps, but not to discomfort."

"Every speech was spot-on eloquent, not just one for the history books but one that mesmerized the ear with its musicaladence. The toasts were gracious, of course, but also took note of history and the changing nature of an increasingly interconnected world," the paper said.

"To the future that beckons all of us. Let us answer its call. And let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us," it quoted President Obama, as saying.

Singh, it says, did not come up short in reciprocating Obama's warm welcome and sentiments.

He said: "Mr. President, your journey to the White House has captured the imagination of millions and millions of peoplen India. You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy."

The Post quoted Obama administration officials as saying it was no accident that India was chosen as the first nation for a state visit.

The President's Press secretary Robert Gibbs termed it "a show of respect for the value that we put on that relationship."

In his article for the Huffington Post, Indian-American motivational speaker and management guru Deepak Chopra, who attended the State Dinner as one the guests, says: "I never expected to see so many faces of modern India as I saw Tuesday night. The White House's state dinner, its first of the new administration, in the midst of it all I sensed the first sprouts of a new level of understanding and partnership between India and the United States, something not achieved in all the ceremony of the President's China visit. There, the smiles of the Chinese were backed by ruthless self-interest. Here one felt a basis of true warmth."

"Few of us in the Indian diaspora have been very visible until recently. We amount to an insignificant voting bloc at 2.6 million, but looking around the room, I saw much more than the stereotype of doctors, motel owners, and dubious accents answering the phone across the world. The Obama administration showed a sure touch, offering assurance to India. President Obama spoke movingly about the future of India and the United States as partners," he added.

"The relationship between the two countries is not only beneficial for each other, but together we become a powerful force of prosperity and peace for the entire world. It seemed an epoch away that India was a closed society, aligned with Soviet socialist programs, crippled by bureaucracy, sold out to corruption," Chpra says further in his article.

"When the President talked about Nehru's vision for the future, I looked around at the other Indians in attendance and realized that we are all the product of the dreams put in place those sixty years ago," he says

"India and the United States have a shared opportunity now for a new level of growth and opportunity that can include everyone, not just the fortunate and privileged. I believe Pakistan has this opportunity available to it as well. With a primary dedication in each nation to economic progress over militarism, extending basic education and health services to all, and reaching a mediated solution to Kashmir, two enemies could create a peaceful coalition instead of the conflict-driven, fear-based, grab-it-while-you-can policies we see around us," he added.

However, the bonhomie surrounding the visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Chopra called on New Delhi to reorder its priorities and make a telling contribution to the world order in the 21st century.

CNN described Obama's first state dinner as a blend of pageantry and politics.

It said that the tradition of presidents hosting state dinners dates back to 1874, and such events are seen as the most treasured and formal honor a U.S. president can offer a foreign dignitary, and the most coveted invitation in Washington.

It further goes on the say that Tuesday night's dinner showed Obama's intention to signal strong ties with the world's largest democracy and go his own way in navigating the pomp and tradition of White House customs.

CBS says the Obamas wanted a larger than usual state dinner to reflect the importance that they attach in terms of regard for the Indian Prime Minister and the importance of taking ties between India and the United States forward from hereon. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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