World

White House bets on plant-based diplomacy at India state dinner

President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden are set to fête India Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday evening at the White House, hosting a lavish, tented state dinner featuring a plant-based menu for their guest of honor, who is a vegetaria

For President Biden, a notoriously picky eater, the stuffed portobello mushroom main course is a thoughtful diplomatic gesture for his guest. Biden’s willingness to eat his vegetables as he hosts Modi is a signal of the importance he places on cultivating the US-India relationship, a key aspect of his Asia strategy.

In turn, Modi has agreed to participate in a one-and-one joint press engagement with Biden after their meetings – the result of lengthy, delicate negotiations between the two sides. While not at all on par, the two gestures are indicative that they are both willing to give a little.

Modi’s visit got underway Wednesday as Jill Biden welcomed him to the US National Science Foundation in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, for a conversation on workforce development, an area where the two countries plan to expand cooperation.

“With this official visit, we are bringing together the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies,” Biden told her guest during the panel discussion, heralding the “deep and expansive” partnership between the US and India.

In the evening, the Bidens hosted Modi for a private dinner, where they gifted the prime minister an antique book galley, a vintage American camera, and a signed, first edition copy of “Collected Poems of Robert Frost.”

Thursday’s events will begin with the formal pomp and circumstance of the official White House arrival ceremony, which includes a military review, a performance of both countries’ national anthems and remarks from both heads of state. Biden and Modi will then retreat to the Oval Office for bilateral meetings ahead of their press availability.

Then in the evening, approximately 400 guests will begin arriving for the glitzy, black tie state dinner, the result of weeks of meticulous planning by the White House social team, the East Wing and the State Department, weaving American and Indian cultural elements and traditions into the décor, entertainment, and menu.

Guests will dine on a first course of marinated millet and grilled corn with compressed watermelon and a tangy avocado sauce. The main course will be stuffed portobello mushrooms with a saffron-infused risotto. And dessert will be a rose and cardamom-infused strawberry shortcake.

For dinner guests seeking a non-vegetarian option, a main course of sumac-roasted sea bass will be available upon request. Asked if her husband would opt for the fish, the first lady laughed.

(As Published By CNN)

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