India's Modi accepts invitation to meet Obama

NEW DELHI Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:52am EDT

Lawmaker Babulal Gaur (R) sits with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the central Indian city of Indore in this February 17, 2010 picture. REUTERS/Raj Patidar

Lawmaker Babulal Gaur (R) sits with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the central Indian city of Indore in this February 17, 2010 picture.

Credit: Reuters/Raj Patidar

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in September, as Washington seeks to court the Asian giant's new government and revive strained relations between the world's two largest democracies.

The Obama administration has been working to boost ties since Modi's thumping election victory, seeing India as an important counterweight to an increasingly assertive China and a prospective export market.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns delivered a written invitation from Obama to Modi on Friday, the Indian government said in a statement. Obama's letter reiterated earlier invitations.

"We recognize the very strong mandate that he's won and we have a deep interest and stake in his success, in India's success," Burns told Indian news channel NDTV, adding that the meeting with Obama was likely to take place on Sept. 30.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an outright majority in India's parliament in May, something no party has managed for three decades, ousting the Congress party that has long dominated politics.

India and the United States set great store by the economic potential of their ties, but their relationship has been fraught in recent years. Washington has set a strategic goal of expanding their $100 billion annual trade by five times.

In its statement, the Indian government said Modi was "looking forward to a result-oriented visit with concrete outcomes that impart new energy to (the) India-U.S. strategic partnership".

A spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that Modi had formally accepted Obama's invitation.

Modi was denied a visa in 2005 for travel to the United States following religious riots in 2002 while he was a state chief minister. Even so, he has responded positively to the U.S. advances and shown no resentment publicly.

(Reporting by Shyamantha Asokan; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Clarence Fernandez)

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