Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a multi-country yoga session at the United Nations headquarters in New York, at the start of his state visit to the US.
Wednesday’s session coincided with the UN’s International Day of Yoga, for which Modi himself had pushed for a resolution in 2014.
Modi’s first official state visit to the US will focus on expanding technology and defense cooperation with the US, as the two countries try to counter China’s expansion in the Indo-pacific region and beyond.
Modi and the record-breaking yoga session
Indian-made yellow mats were spread on the lawn of the UN complex on Wednesday, as people from 135 countries practiced the ancient Indian discipline.
“Yoga means union. So your union is an expression of another form of yoga,” Modi said. “Now, it’s amazing to see the whole world come together again. For yoga.”
The Guinness organization said Wednesday’s yoga session set a new record for nationals in a yoga step.
Modi has often used yoga as a soft power to improve his country, since coming to power in 2014.
Outside the UN, about 200 Modi supporters and 50 critics rallied, the Associated Press news agency said. Many of the opponents waved large yellow flags referring to Khalistan, a homeland Sikh separatists seek to establish in India.
Modi meets Jill Biden
Later on Wednesday, the Indian prime minister flew to Washington, where he was scheduled to tour the National Science Foundation with First Lady Jill Biden. Modi was 30 minutes late for the tour, Reuters news agency said, adding that the first lady started without him.
In the evening, Modi is due to attend a private dinner with the Bidens at the White House.
“With this official visit, we are bringing together the oldest and largest democracy in the world. But our relationship is not only about governance,” said Jill Biden. “We celebrate the families and friendships that make up the world. Those that build the bonds of both, of our countries.”
Meanwhile Modi invited US students to come to his country, adding that India is training students in Artificial Intelligence.
What’s on the agenda for Modi on Thursday?
Modi will hold formal talks with President Biden in the Oval Office on Thursday, followed by a press conference where the two leaders are expected to ask questions, a rare event for an Indian prime minister.
He has not addressed a single press conference in India since assuming office. In May 2019 he attended a press conference but he never asked a question.
He is also scheduled to address a joint session of Congress.
Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all said they would boycott the address because of the erosion of religious and political rights in India.
Later in the evening, Modi will be invited to a state dinner at the White House.
rmt/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)