Modi to visit U.S. in Sept, first trip to Bhutan

NEW DELHI Fri Jun 6, 2014 5:47pm IST

Narendra Modi gestures after seeking blessings from his mother Heeraben at her residence in Gandhinagar in Gujarat May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Narendra Modi gestures after seeking blessings from his mother Heeraben at her residence in Gandhinagar in Gujarat May 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the United States, most likely in September, but his first foreign trip will be a lot closer to home - to the tiny Himalayan state of Bhutan.

Modi, who invited South Asian leaders to his swearing in on May 26, has sought to convert his landslide election victory last month into a platform to pursue a more assertive foreign policy and promote trade and investment.

But, rather than Washington, Beijing or Tokyo, the 63-year-old premier will first visit Bhutan - a landlocked kingdom sandwiched between India and Chinese Tibet that has a population of less than 1 million.

"The prime minister's inbox relating to foreign policy is very crowded," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told a briefing on Friday. "India's foreign policy priorities are in the neighbourhood."

Modi hopes to be able to take up U.S. President Barack Obama's invitation, extended on the day of his election victory last month, to visit Washington in September.

"We are now in contact with the U.S. to work out what would be a mutually convenient date for both of us," said Akbaruddin, confirming earlier reports.

A visit to Japan could come in July. Modi is close friends with Shinzo Abe, and is one of just three people followed by the Japanese prime minister on Twitter.

On the multilateral front, Modi will take in the summit of BRICS emerging economies being hosted by Brazil after the soccer World Cup in July.

He will go to the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, followed by summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Group of 20 and South Asian states.

(Reporting by Sruthi Gottipati; Writing by Douglas Busvine)

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