The Prime Minister’s schedule for Wednesday evening (Thursday morning IST) shows a “Private Engagement at White House” from 1915 to 2100 hrs EST on Wednesday (4.45 am to 6 am Thursday India time), after two closed door business meeting following his noon arrival at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington DC.
Modi is chairing a “Skilling for Future” event hosted by the National Science Foundation (currently led by Indian-American Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan), followed by various one-on-one meetings with top American CEOs and executives at the Willard Hotel, where he will be staying.
State visits typically involve staying at Blair House, which is across from the White House, but the Indian side has preferred to stay at the storied Willard, which is a block east of the White House with the Department of Treasury building in between.
Among the legends associated with the Willard is the term “lobbying” — attributed to President Ulysses Grant apparently because he used to escape there from the White House only to be accosted in the lobby by favor-seekers.
Fans more than favor-seekers will be the flavor over the next 72 hours as thousands of Indians and Indian-Americans have flocked to Washington DC meet and greet Modi. Indian Embassy officials expect up to 5000 people to line up for Thursday morning’s ceremonial welcome in front of the White House, affair of great pomp and splendor even in normal circumstances.
PM Narendra Modi-led Yoga session at UN creates Guinness World Record
The state dinner will be a relatively quieter affair with a elite 300-person guest list which is expected to include top Indian-Americans in the Biden administration, tech honchos like Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, and entertainment industry stars like Priyanka Chopra Jones and Padma Lakshmi.
Grammy Award-winning American violinist and conductor Joshua Bell is slated to provide the evening’s entertainment,
In deference to Modi’s vegetarian diet, the White House has commandeered Nina Curtis, a plant-based chef from Sacramento, California, to work with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison.
Anything they turn out will be a change from the last time Modi dined at the White House in 2014 during the Obama Presidency — when he sipped only warm water because he was on a Navratri fast.
PM Modi lands in New York; receives warm welcome as crucial state visit to the US commences
The private dinner is part of the Bidens’ charm offensive to turn a strong partner into an ally given Washington’s own troubles with China. On Wednesday, Beijing reacted strongly to President Biden characterising his Chinese counterpartt Xi Jinping a dictator, saying it was an “extremely absurd and irresponsible” comment and “an open political provocation” that violated diplomatic etiquette.
Watch Modi’s US trip: What India expects from PM-Biden meet?