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Obama to join Modi on radio phone-in during India trip

The programme will illustrate 'a special bond between India & USA', tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.

NEW DELHI // US president Barack Obama will co-host Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s regular monthly radio phone-in show next week as part of his three-day visit to New Delhi.

The announcement was made in a tweet by Mr Modi, who called on listeners to send in their questions for next Tuesday’s edition of “Mann ki Baat” – or “From the Heart” – which is usually in Hindi.

“This month’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ episode will be a special one, where our Republic Day guest @BarackObama & I will share our thoughts together,” Mr Modi tweeted on Thursday.

The programme will illustrate “a special bond between India & USA”, the prime minister added.

Mr Obama is due to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday, the first serving US president to make a return trip to India.

Mr Obama is the main VIP at the Republic Day parade when India’s military showcases everything from tanks to its camels.

As well as watching the parade together on Monday, the two men will hold bilateral talks and address an audience of business leaders from both countries.

The US president will be accompanied by his wife Michelle, and the first couple are expected to visit the Taj Mahal at the end of the visit on Tuesday.

“For President Obama to be invited as the first US president to attend as the chief guest sends a very important message to the world,” US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said in Washington.

It is Mr Obama’s second trip to India and the first since Mr Modi’s party was elected in May on a platform to develop the economy and increase India’s stature in the world. His first trip to India was in 2010 when he met with Manmohan Singh, Mr Modi’s predecessor.

Ties between the US and India have warmed under Mr Modi’s leadership.

His election in May 2014 was a potential headache for the US, which had blacklisted the Hindu nationalist for more than a decade after deadly communal riots in Gujarat when he was state chief minister.

He was only brought in from the cold last February when Mr Verma’s predecessor travelled to Gujarat when it appeared Mr Modi was likely to end the centre-left Congress party’s 10-year rule.

The transformation since has been spectacular, with both men heartened by their meeting of minds on a range of issues in Washington in September.

During that visit, Mr Modi met Mr Obama at the White House and addressed a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Mr Obama will be Mr Modi’s first guest on the hour-long radio address on Tuesday.

During the programme on All India Radio, the two leaders will talk about plans for further diplomacy while answering questions submitted on Twitter with the hashtag #AskObamaModi, Mr Modi said. The public broadcaster says it covers 92 per cent of India’s land area and reaches 99 percent of its 1.25 billion people.

* Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg

Updated: January 22, 2015 04:00 AM