India’s PM Modi to join Biden in rare press conference, questions limited


Washington (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver remarks and take questions from journalists on Thursday during the Indian leader’s state visit, an event a senior White House official called a “big deal”

It is unusual for Modi to take questions from the media, beyond occasional interviews. He has not addressed a single press conference in India since becoming prime minister about nine years ago. In May 2019 he attended a press conference but never took questions.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the White House understands the press conference is a “big deal.”

“We are just grateful that Prime Minister Modi is participating in a press event at the end of the visit,” Kirby said. “We think that’s important and we’re glad he thinks that’s important too.”

The format of the press conference will include one question from the U.S. press and one from an Indian journalist, Kirby said.

White House press conferences with other world leaders have been tightly controlled, with U.S. officials designating reporters beforehand from the American and foreign media for Biden and his guest to call upon, and a very limited number of questions.

Biden is under pressure by his fellow Democrats to raise human rights with Modi amid concerns about democratic backsliding in India under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Human rights could be one topic of the press conference.

Modi has been to the United States five times since becoming prime minister in 2014, but the trip will be his first with the full diplomatic status of a state visit.

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