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There was saffron on the menu at the White House as U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some 400 guests at a carefully planned state dinner on Thursday to commemorate the prime ministerial visit.

With a main course of stuffed portobello mushrooms in a creamy saffron-infused risotto, Chef Nina Curtis, an expert in plant-based cuisine, led the culinary team, working with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison. Mr. Biden, who hosted the media for a preview of the dinner, had developed the three-course menu along with the chefs, keeping in mind that Mr. Modi is a vegetarian.

The first course included marinated millet and grilled corn kernel salad — in tune with India’s promotion of millets as part of the United Nations International Year of Millets. For those who wanted a fish option, sumac-roasted sea bass was available upon request. Guests were served rose and cardamom-infused strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Even the wine list was a nod to Mr. Modi’s Gujarati roots and contained a Patel red blend 2019 (the White House background email had ‘Patel ‘in capital letters). Neither Mr. Modi nor U.S. President Joe Biden drink alcohol, however.

“The good news for both is us, neither of us drinks,” Mr. Biden said, as glasses for the toast were being brought to him and Mr. Modi. “Ginger ale, okay,” he added, joking that his father had told him to toast with his left hand when not using alcohol for the toast.

“Two great nations, two great friends, and two great powers. Cheers,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Modi toasted his hosts and “the pursuit of happiness” as well as “liberty, equality and fraternity” and the “everlasting bonds of friendship” between India and the United States.

The lotus, a symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has also has found its way into the G-20 motif for the year, under India’s presidency, was also present throughout the décor. “A longstanding feature in Indian design throughout history andinspired by mandala-style illustrations found in traditional Indian art, thelotus flower is incorporated throughout the decor and tablescapes,” the White House said. The tables were designed by David Stark Design and Production.

The dinner was hosted in tents on the south side of the White House, with guests walking or being bused in ‘trolleys’ from the main building. The entire space, had saffron, green and white — colours of the Indian flag. The background for the toasts had the national birds of the two countries — the bald eagle for America and the peacock for India.

The translucent walls of the pavilions provided views of the White House, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

Grammy award wining violinist Joshua Bell, South Asian a cappella group Penn Masala and the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band Chamber Orchestra entertained guests for the evening.

On the guest list or in attendance were members of the Biden family and Cabinet including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglass Emhoff, Indian Cabinet Ministers, India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, U.S. lawmakers Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal and Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval.

Also invited were prominent names from the business world: Mukesh and Nita Ambani, James Murdoch (son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch), Anand Mahindra, former PepsiCo Chairman Indira Nooyi, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai and diaspora organisation ‘Indiaspora’ founder M R Rangaswami. Judge Sri Srinivasan – who got close to being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court during the Barack Obama presidency, was also present.

Except for a small component, the F414-INS6 will be entirely manufactured in India; the 2012 deal had only 58% technology transfer, says an official, adding that current agreement reflects the level of trust India evokes in the U.S. and the strategic priorities that the countries share


The jet engine deal with the U.S. is an “almost done” deal and will see 80% technology transfer by General Electric (GE) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This will include critical technologies. The first engine will roll out three years after the contract is ready, said a Defence Ministry official.

A previous ‘Engine Development Agreement’ in 2012 between GE and HAL for the F414 engine had 58% technology transfer, the official stated.

A factsheet issued by the White House on the bilateral meetings, described the GE proposal to jointly produce the F414 jet engine in India as “groundbreaking”, adding that a manufacturing licence agreement has been submitted for Congressional notification.

“It will take three years for the first engine to roll out once the contract is signed. The 80% technology transfer to HAL is of critical importance. Such a transfer has not happened before and shows the level of trust India evokes in the U.S.,” a senior defence source said on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between GE and HAL to manufacture F414 engines for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-MK2 in India. “Except for a small component, the F414-INS6 engine will entirely be manufactured in India.”

“This trailblazing initiative to manufacture F414 engines in India will enable greater transfer of U.S. jet engine technology than ever before,” the joint statement issued after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden said.

Critical technologies

Some of the key technologies that would be transferred to India include special coatings for corrosion; casting, machining and coating for Single Crystal for turbine blades; casting, machining and coating of nozzle guide vanes and other hot parts; blisk machining; forging/power metallurgy discs for turbine; machining of thin walled titanium casing; friction inertia welding for fan and after burner; Polymer Matrix Composites (PMC) for bypass polymer duct; Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC) for LPNGV, flaps; laser drilling technology for combustor; bottle boring of shafts.

On the timeline, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that the U.S. Congress would have to approve the deal which involves two separate legislations: Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and that some of the spadework had been completed during the Strategic Trade Dialogue he participated in earlier this month in Washington.

“Given that it is crucial to address the regulatory ecosystem, which intersects with technology cooperation, India and the U.S. recently held the first meeting of the strategic trade dialogue. The whole idea behind the strategic trade dialogue is that we look at regulatory issues more in terms of finding ways to enable our technology cooperation.” Mr. Kwatra said that the Jet engine tech transfer deal was one of the “strong, strategic and shared priorities” for both Mr. Modi and Mr. Biden.

While the final cost is yet to be worked out, the official said the costing is indexed to the 2012 agreement based on which the current cost for 99 engines should be under $1bn.

The F414 will significantly enhance the capability of the LCA-MK2 and engines for prototype and testing are already available. As reported by The Hindu earlier, the LCA-Mk2 will be 1350mm longer featuring canards and a payload of 6,500 kgs compared with 3,500 kgs for the Mk1 and MK1A.

Around 120-130 LCA-MK2 jets are likely to be produced. A final decision has to be taken by the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who has been pushing the project towards faster execution, officials said. The official noted that they are still in talks for co-development of a 110KN engine to power the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)-MK2. This F414 deal makes GE the frontrunner for the deal, though a final decision is yet to be taken.

Approval process

The defence official said that in addition to the U.S. Congressional approval, there are some commercial terms that are yet to be finalised.

The deal also shows that the U.S. trusts our Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime and that the technology would remain secure. The U.S. has showed confidence in our military systems also, the official added.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has already approved the development of the LCA-Mk2 at a total development cost of ₹9,000 crore.

India and the U.S. are working with renewed trust in areas of new and emerging technologies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday as he thanked the American leadership for giving him a grand welcome.

Speaking at a luncheon hosted in his honour by Vice-President Kamala Harris at the White House, Mr. Modi said the two countries had added and expanded the scope of the cooperation in the defence and strategic areas.

“We are working with renewed trust in areas of new and emerging technologies. We are resolving long pending and difficult issues in trade,” he said, adding that with new frameworks such as QUAD and I2U2, the two countries were making major progress together.

Mr. Modi said that in 2014 during his visit to the U.S., President Joe Biden had referred to the India-America partnership as a promise over the horizon. “In this period of nine years since then, we have been on a very long and beautiful journey,” he added.

He lauded Indian-origin Ms. Harris and her parents, saying “Your contribution to strengthening our strategic partnership has been incredible.” “Thank you so much for this grand welcome. The sweet melody of the India-U.S. relationship is composed of our people-to-people relations,” Mr. Modi said at the event also co-hosted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Department of State.

Ms. Harris said she and President Biden were grateful for Mr. Modi’s commitment to strengthen U.S.-India ties. “As I look around this room, I am struck by the extraordinary impact that the Indian Americans have had on our country in every facet of life,” Ms. Harris said.

“As we look toward the future, the U.S. and India instinctively turn to each other and are increasingly aligned,” she added.

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