June 26, 2023
PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI was recently on his sixth trip to the United States and his first State Visit to that country. He is only the third Indian leader to receive this honour, after former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This visit is significant because it strengthens the cordial bilateral ties between the two sovereign countries. Besides senior government functionaries, Modi has also interacted with prominent CEOs, professionals, stakeholders and members of the Indian diaspora, further strengthening ties between India and the United States.
In June 1963, former President Radhakrishnan was the first Indian President to be invited to the United States as a State guest. In November 2009, the United States received former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also as a State guest. Not all of the nine Indian prime ministers who visited the United States during their terms were on State visits.
The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, visited the United States four times, while Manmohan Singh visited the country eight times. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was awarded the country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, also made four trips to the United States. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi followed closely with three visits to the United States as prime minister, followed by PV Narasimha Rao with two visits and Morarji Desai and IK Gujral with one visit.
In 2014, Modi first visited the United States on a working trip. Significantly, he also delivered his first Address to the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) during this visit. In 2016, he returned to the United States for the Nuclear Security Summit. During this visit, he also conferred bilaterally with former US President Barack Obama at the White House.
His 2019 visit is regarded as one of his most important, when he addressed the Indian-American community in Houston at an event titled ‘Howdy, Modi!’ Nearly 50,000 people attended the event, with then President Donald Trump later holding bilateral discussions with Modi. In 2017, Modi had visited the United States for three days. The then President hosted him at the White House for a “working dinner”. During this trip, Modi also addressed the Indian diaspora at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
THE HIGHEST EXPRESSION OF DIPLOMATIC COURTESY
A STATE VISIT IS A FORMAL VISIT by a head of state to a foreign country at the invitation of the Head of State of that country, with the latter also acting as the official host for the duration of the visit.
In the United States, a State Visit is the highest-ranking visit to the country by a foreign dignitary and can only be offered by the US presidents to their counterparts—that is, fellow Heads of State. State Visits are considered the highest expression of friendly bilateral relations between two sovereign states and are, in general, characterized by an emphasis on official public ceremonies.
Some of the typical events that take place during a state visit include:
- A formal welcome ceremony at the White House, often including a military parade and a 21-gun salute
- A State Dinner hosted by the president and First Lady
- A visit to the US Congress, where the visiting Head of State may deliver a speech
- A tour of some of the major tourist attractions in Washington, DC
- A meeting with the president and other senior US officials to discuss bilateral relations
State Visits are often seen as an opportunity for two countries to strengthen their ties and to discuss important issues of mutual interest. They can also be a way to showcase the culture and history of the host country to the visiting Head of State and their delegation.
Some recent state visits to the United States include:
- State Visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015
- State Visit of British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017
- State Visit of French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018
State Visits are a time-honoured tradition in international diplomacy and continue to play an important role in strengthening ties between countries.