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Obama Hosts India's Prime Minister for State Visit

The flags of the United States and India are flying outside the White House as President Barack Obama prepares to host his first state visit. There will be pomp and ceremony as Mr. Obama welcomes Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The flags of the United States and India are flying outside the White House as President Barack Obama prepares to host his first state visit.  There will be pomp and ceremony as Mr. Obama welcomes Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

They will be rolling out the red carpet at the White House for the Indian prime minister.

There will be a ceremonial welcome with full military honors, and a state dinner for 400 in a tent on the South Lawn.

But there will also be substance.  White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says there are plenty of key topics on the agenda.

"Obviously, counterterrorism is important, the economic recovery, the world economy, our relationship to them in terms of climate change," said Robert Gibbs.

The visit is expected to produce concrete results on the climate change issue.  On the eve of his White House visit, Prime Minister Singh told a gathering of business leaders in Washington that India and the United States are ready to sign a memorandum of understanding.

"We plan to sign with the U.S. government tomorrow a memorandum of understanding on energy security, clean energy and climate change," said Manmohan Singh. "This will provide a framework for pursuing bilateral cooperation in specific areas."

The Indian leader made clear he considers it an honor to be chosen for the first state visit for the Obama White House.

"It is a great pleasure for me to be visiting Washington once again," he said. "I am looking forward to my discussions with President Obama tomorrow when my official program begins."

But critics say the state dinner - with its lavish table settings and formal attire - is not appropriate at a time of rising unemployment in the United States.

When asked about the criticism, spokesman Gibbs said the state dinner honors a bilateral relationship that is important to both countries.

"I think it's a show of respect for the value that we put on that relationship," he said. "I think India is the world's largest democracy, and I think the relationship that we have with them [the United States] and the issues that we're dealing with them are tremendously important going forward in our future."

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has made overtures to Pakistan and China - India's traditional rivals.   Now, analysts say, Mr. Obama might be attempting to ease any tensions in New Delhi by honoring Mr. Singh with the first state visit of his presidency. 
 

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