At 01:20 am India time, PM Modi and Mr Trump will begin a 20-minute one-on-one interaction. That will flow into delegation talks, with top officials from both sides joining them, after which the press briefing will be held.
WASHINGTON: Before their working dinner at the White House tonight, US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address reporters. In a change of plans, the US and India have changed their earlier stand of no questions allowed – instead, after a joint statement is issued on their meeting, each leader will take one question selected in advance.
At 01:20 am India time, PM Modi and Mr Trump will begin a 20-minute one-on-one interaction. That will flow into delegation talks, with top officials from both sides joining them, after which the press briefing will be held. Then, Mr Modi will become the first foreign dignitary to be entertained at a dinner at the White House by the Trump administration.
Expectation management by the Indian side has seen officials play down the likelihood of any major breakthrough, stressing that the tete-a-tete is aimed at the two world leaders building a personal rapport at a time of vast differences on issues ranging from climate change to immigration.
Initial signs were upbeat, with Mr Trump describing PM Modi as a “true friend!” on Twitter, and the PM posting that he “greatly looked forward” to the one-on-one.
Some commentators have suggested they have a natural affinity, having both risen to power in part by castigating the traditional ruling elite while offering a strongly nationalistic vision. Both also entertain a wary relationship with the media — preferring to reach out directly to their base via social media.
This is PM Modi’s fifth trip to the US since he took over. His warm relationship with President Barack Obama drew the latter as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day parade in 2015.
After President Trump’s election, his America-First policy saw him announcing a major revision of the H1-B visa programme used by Indian software firms to send techies to the US.
Then Mr Trump accused India of seeking to profit from the Paris climate accord as he announced the US withdrawal from the deal this month — drawing a firm rebuttal from Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
A deal that will see America selling unarmed Predator naval drones worth about $2 billion could be announced in the joint statement, said sources.
On Sunday, PM Modi told top American executives that India is a business-friendly country of “minimum government” as he sought investment.
Mr Trump’s protectionist instincts, however, are at odds with PM Modi’s flagship pitch to Western manufacturers to “Make In India”.
PM Modi’s core goals for the meeting, analysts say, are simple: “ensure that India is on the US’ radar, and that the new US administration maintains policy continuity with the last one,” said Shailesh Kumar of the Eurasia group.