Thank you for the 'chai pe charcha': Obama to Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama had a private tete-e-tete over tea at Hyderabad House, the state guest house, that led the latter to invoke the 'chai pe charcha' (chat over tea) concept that Modi made a winning campaign strategy before the April-May 2014 general election that he won with a stunning majority to come to power. The two leaders stepped out into the garden of the stately Hyderabad House, a formerly princely mansion that was built in 1928, and has been the venue for high-level official meetings and summit talks, after a working lunch, and leisurely strolled along the red sandstone pathways, talking animatedly and gesticulating for effect.

Hyderabad House is part of the India Gate complex at the centre of the capital through which will pass the Republic Day parade Monday where Obama is the chief guest.

Their body language, at the informal retreat, made it clear that the chemistry that had developed between them during Modi's visit to Washington has grown even stronger.

They sat down on two comfortable single-seater sofa chairs laid down in the Hyderabad House garden, under a curtained canopy, and Modi picked up a teapot, lifted a white cup and saucer, poured out the tea and handed it over to Obama without a break in the conversation.

They chatted for more than 10 minutes before getting up and walking back into Hyderabad House. It was all quite unprecedented and a pointer to the new warmth in the India-US relations. Observers believe that this conversation led to the crucial breakthrouh in the impasse over the nuclear deal that has been hanging fire since 2008, when it was signed in Washington.

At their joint interaction with the media, Obama referred to their tea talk and thanked the Indian prime minister for the 'chai pe charcha'. Modi, the son of a

tea-vendor, had devised this campaign strategy after a rival Congress party leader had ridiculed his tea-seller roots.

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