It took PM Narendra Modi and US President Donald 4 hours and 9 minutes — from 3.39 pm to 7.48 pm — to break ice and move substantively ahead, Shubhajit Roy reports from the sidelines.
3.39 pm: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walked out of White House south portico. A black limousine carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi drove down.
3.41 pm: The trio turned and walked inside. Trump ignored a shouted question about whether he is at war with the media.
3.45 pm: They went to the Oval office. Trump said, “It’s a great honour to have Prime Minister Modi of India who has been such a great Prime Minister. I’ve been speaking with…and reading about you, and you have done a great job economically. India is doing very well…. So I’d like to congratulate you.”
Modi said, through a translator, “I think I will have a lot to speak after the meeting but the way I have been welcomed by the Honourable President and the First Lady, I’m extremely grateful to them for the respect and for the grand welcome.”
Modi spoke about Trump’s visit to India before he became President, and asked by the media about Modi, he was “full of very warm remarks”, which Modi remembers till date.
3.51 pm: First bilateral leader-level talks. There were 12 people on each side. Trump had US Vice President Mike Pence on his right and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his left. Modi sat opposite Trump, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval beside him.
Trump said, “It’s a great honour to have Prime Minister Modi with us, his representatives, we’ve had a lot of discussions already. So we’re making great progress. The relationship with the United States and India is very, very strong and very, very powerful. We agree on most things and I would say by the end of the day we’ll agree on everything. I have a feeling…”
Modi spoke for about a minute about the conversation they had, and expressed hope for a good conversation they were going to have.
Trump spoke again: “…And thank you very much for the equipment, ordering [military] equipment from the United States. Always makes us feel very good. Nobody makes military equipment like we make…nobody even close, so we want to thank you very much…”
5.31 pm: Modi and Trump walked out into Rose Garden. During the statements, Trump spoke first followed by Modi.
6.18 pm: A long rectangular table set for dinner ran through the centre of the Blue Room.
“We’ll do a toast as soon as the media leaves,” Trump said. “We’re going to have a very special toast, a very intimate toast…. We have had tremendous meetings today, tremendous success. We enjoy a wonderful relationship but it’s never been better than it is today. And, again, anytime you’d like we want to have you back as soon as possible.”
Modi said, “Mr President, let me express my gratitude for this invitation. It is true that I have spent a very short time over here but really I have felt so much at home during this stay in the US. I’m indeed also very grateful to the First Lady. She has organised this reception in my honour. This honours not just me but 1.25 billion people of India…”
Trump said, “They had elections in a section of India and it was just a small section, but he (Modi) said it’s the seventh largest country in the world. So I said, you know what? This is a better day. But it is great to have you…”
Modi said, “And to add icing to the cake is that in those elections, our party won.”
“Good,” Trump interjected.
“And after many years we’ve got three-fourths majority in the state assembly,” Modi said.
“That’s fantastic…. You won by a lot.”
7.46 pm: Trump and Melania walked out of South portico doors with Modi.
7.48 pm: Trump and Melania waved goodbye as Modi’s motorcade pulled away.