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PM Modi Arrives In US, Pays Homage To Indian-American Astronaut Kalpana Chawala

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Washington on Tuesday on a three-day visit during which he will hold talks with President Barack Obama to review bilateral ties and address a joint session of the US Congress

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Washington on Tuesday (07 May) on a three-day visit during which he will hold talks with President Barack Obama to review bilateral ties and address a joint session of the US Congress.

Modi arrived at the Joint Base Andrews from Switzerland where he secured the European nation's support for India's NSG membership ahead of a key meeting of the 48-nation bloc.

"Penultimate leg of PM Narendra Modi's journey begins as he arrives in Washington DC on a sunny summer afternoon," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

US' Ambassador to India Richard Verma and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal were among the top officials present at the base to receive Prime Minister Modi.

Modi has a packed schedule here, including the address to a joint session of the US Congress. He will be the fifth Indian Prime Minister to do so. Modi is visiting the US at the invitation of President Obama.

Since 2014, there have been six meetings and countless phone calls between Obama and Modi, and this visit "reflects the significance that the two leaders place on the natural alliance between the two largest democratic countries of the world", a senior US official had said ahead of the meeting.

This is Prime Minister Modi's fourth visit to the US.

"In my meeting with the President on June 7, we will seek to build upon the progress achieved in providing new vigour and momentum to our strategic partnership in diverse areas," Modi had said before departing for his five-nation tour to Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico.

Modi will also address the 40th AGM of the USIBC (US India Business Council) and meet US business leaders.

"India and USA are natural partners, two vibrant democracies that celebrate their diversity and pluralism.

Strong India-USA ties benefit not only our two nations but also the entire world," Modi had said.

From the US, Modi will visit Mexico before heading back to India.

Modi laid a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers and paid homage to Indian-American astronaut late Kalpana Chawla at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

"Honouring sacrifice, saluting valour. Formal engagements begin with a solemn ceremony," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

"In homage to heroism and indomitable courage," Swarup said in another tweet.

He also had a brief interaction with the husband and family members of Chawla, senior officials from NASA, Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams and her father at Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter accompanied the Prime Minister. Indian Ambassador to the US Arun K Singh, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal were also present on the occasion.

"All of us are very honored that he took time to come and acknowledge the shuttle catastrophe and the deep cooperation that we have with India in the space world," Williams told the news agency after her brief interaction with Modi.

"Personally it is commemorating my friend (Kalpana Chawala)," Williams said.

Modi spoke to Sunita's father in Gujarati and invited them to visit India.

"With health permitting, I definitely look forward to visiting India," her father said.

"The Prime Minister said come to India. Please come and visit," she said.

Chawla's husband Jean-Pierre Harrison presented a set of books on the late astronaut, including a biography written by him, to the Prime Minister.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified.

(PTI)


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