The Obamas Kick off their First State Visit, Welcome India’s Prime Minister to the White House

Nov 24, 2009 10:36am

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:  At the welcome ceremony for the first official state visit of his presidency, President Obama told India’s Prime Minister today that “it is fitting that you and India be so recognized.” In a scaled down ceremony, moved from the South Lawn to the East Room due to rain, the First Couple welcomed Prime Minister Singh of India and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, to the White House. “This visit reflects the high esteem in which I and the American people hold your wise leadership,” Mr. Obama said. “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.” Surrounded by members of the Indian delegation, the U.S. delegation and visitors crammed into the East Room holding both tiny U.S. and Indian flags together. First Lady Michelle Obama stood side-by-side in an orange textured coat with her Indian counterpart, looking on to their husbands at the podium. The president said that as their two nations work toward a better future “India is indispensable,” and he said the two leaders can work together to strengthen the economy, promote trade, combat climate change, end extreme poverty, and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. “As people who've known the pain and anguish of terrorism, we can stand together,” President Obama said, “cooperating to prevent future attacks and promote the development and prosperity that undermines violent extremism.” The president added that as the world largest democracies the U.S. and India can “keep faith with our common values: speaking out and standing up for the rights and dignity to which all human beings are entitled, and showing that nations that respect the rights and aspirations of their people are ultimately more stable, more secure and more successful.” Mr. Obama noted that it was 60 years ago that President Truman welcomed to the White House the first prime minister of an independent India. “While the decades that followed were not without their challenges, the spirit of that first visit is with us today:  the same sense of possibility, the same hope for the future,” he said. Prime Minister Singh said he brings to the United States the “friendly greetings of our 1 billion people of India,” as he comes to the White House today to, “broaden and deepen our strategic partnership.” The two leaders will spend the morning behind closed doors in a series of one-on-one and extended meetings with their broader delegations. -Sunlen Miller

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