THEY have met seven times in a little over a year, call each other by their first names — unusual in some quarters — and say they are close enough to discuss every issue, openly and frankly.
Last week, on Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest described at some length what his boss, President Barack Obama, thinks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Obama has found Modi “honest and direct; somebody who has good command of the facts; somebody who has a clear understanding of the issues that confront his country and our relationship,” Earnest said in response to a question at the daily briefing about the two leaders’ last meeting in Paris and their relationship generally.
Modi had called Obama a “good friend” in remarks before their meeting on the sidelines of the climate conference in Paris on Monday. “We meet very often. We’re very good friends. We talk very openly,” he had said.
Earnest said Obama “respects” Modi and has appreciation for his “skills and abilities as a politician”. He went to say that the Prime Minister “is also somebody that has a clear vision for where he wants to take his country. And that makes him not just an effective politician but an effective Prime Minister.”
The two leaders have met seven times since September 2014, when Obama hosted Modi at an informal dinner at the White House, followed by talks the next day.
Obama had gone on to give Modi a personal tour of the Martin Luther King Jr memorial, which was taken note of by officials and experts on both sides.
“The President has had the opportunity to consult with Prime Minister Modi on a number of occasions, and I think that isn’t just a testament to their good working relationship – it actually is a testament to the important issues that are at stake between our two countries,” said Earnest.
Obama knows, Earnest said, the “difficult challenges” Modi faces “as somebody…sitting atop the world’s largest democracy”. He added: “That’s not easy work, and the President of the United States has special insight into how difficult it is.”
©2015 THE HINDUSTAN TIMES (NEW DELHI) / DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.