By Arun Kumar
WASHINGTON– Describing the chemistry between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama as a “good thing” for the two countries, White House says Obama will keep working to strengthen their ties during his final year in office.
The last time Modi and Obama met was in Paris, in the context of the climate talks, Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted Friday when asked about the future of India-US relations a year after the President’s visit to India as the chief guest at Republic Day in 2015.
“And there was a sense at the time that the Indian government might be the chief impediment to the successful completion of an ambitious climate agreement,” Earnest noted. “And that ambitious climate agreement was completed less than two weeks after that meeting,”
“I think that should be a pretty good indication to you that while obviously Prime Minister Modi takes very seriously the responsibility that he has to advocate for the citizens of his country, he can advance the interests of the people of India by working effectively with President Obama,” he said.
“And that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for our two countries. It’s a good thing for the citizens of our two countries,” Earnest said.
“And I would expect the President will continue to look for ways to strengthen the relationship not just between the two leaders, but between our two countries during his final year in office,” he said.
Earnest said Modi had been invited to participate in the National Security Summit here on March 31-April 1. But he was not aware whether the Prime Minister was planning to attend.
In response to another question about an Indian American Sikh carrying a “Stop Hate” placard being asked to leave a rally of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in Iowa last month, Earnest drew attention to Obama’s recent comments decrying the hate rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Obama’s comment during his first visit to a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland and at the national prayer breakfast here, he said, “were a pretty clear indication that it is a core American value that people should not be targeted or marginalized or ridiculed because of the way they choose to worship God.”
“And that right to do so, unimpeded by anybody — let alone somebody who aspires to the highest political office in the United States, as a direct contradiction of a core American value,” Earnest said.
“And the President I think spoke out quite forcefully about his commitment to defending that value for everybody,” he added.
In response to a question about the fate of 11 million undocumented immigrants, including about 300,000 Indians, Earnest said Obama has been a leading advocate of immigration reform.
He favoured “common-sense immigration reform that would bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows that would require them to undergo a background check, to pay taxes.”
“And we know this would have a positive impact not just on the lives of those immigrants, many of whom are American in every way but their papers,” Earnest said.
“It would also have a positive impact on our economy, because you obviously have a larger pool of people paying taxes,” he said.
“That’s good for the economy, it’s good for the country, and it certainly would make a difference in the lives of so many of these immigrants,” Earnest said.