U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting his first state visit at the White House.  The guest of honor is Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A cool rain forced the official arrival ceremony indoors.  But the welcome for the Indian leader was warm.

"Mr. Prime Minister, yours is the first official state visit of my presidency.  And it is fitting that you and India be so recognized," President Obama said.

At the scaled-down event in the White House East Room, President Obama talked about the importance of ties between India and the United States.

He told Prime Minister Singh the visit reflects the bonds of respect and friendship that link their two countries.

"But above all, your visit at this pivotal moment in history speaks to the opportunity before us to build the relationship between our nations born in the last century into one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," Mr. Obama said.

The president talked about the potential for partnership in dealing with global challenges ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to climate change.  He also mentioned cooperation in combating terrorism and extremism and boosting the world economy.

One week after a trip to East Asia that included several days in China, Mr. Obama went out of his way to stress that he also sees India as an important player in international affairs.

"This is the India that America welcomes today - a leader in Asia and around the world," Mr. Obama said.

Prime Minister Singh said the United States and India are separated by distance but bound by common values.

"Over the years, we have built upon these values and created a partnership that is based upon both principle and pragmatism," Mr. Singh said. "Our relations have been transformed, and today they encompass cooperation in all areas of human activity."

The Indian leader announced Monday that the United States and India would sign a memorandum of understanding during his visit designed to improve cooperation on energy security, clean energy and climate change. 

Other issues sure to be addressed during his talks with President Obama include American policy toward Pakistan, and the status of the civilian nuclear agreement the United States and India signed last year.