White House to Host Dinner for Fasting Leader
India PM Narendra Modi won't eat during 5-day US trip
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2014 12:30 AM CDT
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sits during the launch of the "Make in India" initiative yesterday prior to his scheduled departure to the US.   (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – A state dinner with a difference: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins a visit to the US today, but although he'll be having a private dinner with President Obama, the White House chefs might as well take the night off because Modi is visiting in the middle of a nine-day fast. A spokesman says the leader has been observing the religious fast annually for 40 years and won't be consuming anything more than water, the Wall Street Journal reports. Obama—and Joe Biden, who will be having lunch with Modi—should probably grab a bite to eat before "dining" with the leader: "It's very bad form to sit in front of fasting guests and eat heartily," a former White House executive chef tells the WSJ. "It's just not polite."

Despite the lack of fuel, Modi has a hectic schedule involving more than 50 engagements during his five days in the US, including a sold-out appearance at New York City's Madison Square Garden, reports the New York Times. His landslide election victory in May put India's long-dominant Congress party out of power, and the US visit is seen as a chance to reboot a relationship that soured after a female Indian diplomat was arrested and strip-searched last year. "For Washington, and for Obama specifically, it's really about simply getting to know someone they don't know much about," an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center tells the Guardian. "The relationship has hit rock bottom, so the only way is up. Everyone is looking for some good news out of this."