NEW DELHI: Signalling his determination to take relations with the United States to a higher level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke with protocol to meet and bear-hug US President Barack Obama as he landed in New Delhi on Sunday.
Obama’s visit is a fresh bid to make India an enduring strategic partner and he will seek to nurture friendship with a prime minister who a year ago was persona non grata in Washington.
Obama will be the first US president to attend India’s Republic Day parade, a show of military might long associated with the anti-Americanism of the Cold War, and will host a radio show with Modi.
His presence at Monday’s parade at Modi’s personal invitation is the latest revival in a roller-coaster relationship between the two largest democracies that just a year ago was in tatters.
Modi greeted Obama and his wife, Michelle, on the tarmac of the airport in New Delhi as they came down the steps from Air Force One on a smoggy winter morning. The two leaders hugged each other warmly.
According to protocol, the prime minister does not greet foreign leaders on their arrival, meeting them instead at a formal ceremony at the presidential palace. Modi made the decision himself to break with tradition and surprised even his own handlers, media reports said.