India's PM Modi meets US tech titans in Silicon Valley

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi speaks during a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny (unseen) following their meeting in Dublin, Ireland, on Sept 23, 2015.
Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi speaks during a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny (unseen) following their meeting in Dublin, Ireland, on Sept 23, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began a two-day trip to Silicon Valley on Saturday (Sept 26) with a visit to "green" car maker Tesla Motors and a meeting with Apple Inc's chief executive Tim Cook.

Mr Modi, 65, is the first Indian leader to visit the US West Coast in more than 30 years. His trip follows a US visit by China's President Xi Jinping, who met several tech leaders in Seattle earlier this week.

Mr Modi hopes to attract funds and skills from US innovators to help India's burgeoning startup scene grow, and he will seek to encourage some Indians who have thrived around San Jose, California, to bring their knowledge back home.

At Tesla, Mr Modi met chief executive Elon Musk and discussed renewable energy, which Modi is eager to bring back to India.

"Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Prime Minister Modi discussed Tesla's developments in battery technology, energy storage, and renewable energy and the positive implications of this innovation for India," Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes said.

Much of Mr Modi's agenda will also focus on connecting with Silicon Valley's Indian diaspora. Shortly after his afternoon arrival, he also met with the Indian community at his hotel and later met with members of the Sikh community.

Mr Modi was also set to meet with Indian-born chief executives Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai of Microsoft Corp and Google, respectively, before a dinner with 350 business leaders on Saturday evening.

Mr Nadella and Mr Pichai are expected to lead a panel at the dinner, along with Adobe Systems chief executive Shantanu Narayen, to discuss the economy and Mr Modi's "Digital India" initiative, which aims to connect thousands more Indian villages to the Internet and create more tech jobs. Mr Modi is also scheduled to deliver a speech.

While Mr Modi is likely to be received like a rock star in an area that is home to many of the world's biggest high-tech firms, some groups have protested his arrival and urged tech companies to boycott the visit.

The groups include Sikhs for Justice, which has called on its members to picket Facebook Inc headquarters during a Facebook town hall, and the Alliance for Justice and Accountability.

Mr Modi has been criticised for failing to do enough to stop religious riots that killed about 1,000 people in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister of the state. Most of those killed were Muslims.

Mr Modi has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.