External Affairs Minister S M Krishna arrived in Washington to hold the third India-United States Strategic Dialogue with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during which the two leaders are expected to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Hours before Krishna arrived in Washington on Monday afternoon by a Acela train from New York, Clinton set the tone for the talks by announcing that India has 'significantly' reduced its dependence on Iranian oil and this would get waiver from the Iranian sanctions act of the US Congress.
The Strategic Dialogue, said External Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, is a reflection of the vastness of the India-US relationship and the breadth of engagement between the two countries.
"The issues on the table are pretty clear... it covers a whole host of things apart from discussing strategic and regional issues, we would also have issues related to human resources development, we have issues related to women empowerment and a whole set of issues, homeland security," the spokesperson said.
"We have a very elaborate delegation. We hope to engage in a very candid and forthright manner with the US counterparts," the spokesperson said.
Noting that it is difficult to bring down the India-US relationship to a single issue, he said the Strategic Dialogue would focus on a diverse range of issues.
Krishna is accompanied by a number of his top ministerial colleagues including Minister for Science and Technology Vilasrao Deshmukh, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Prime Minister's Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation Advisor Sam Pitroda.
Others include Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath, Minister of State for Planning, S&T and Earth Sciences Ashwini Kumar, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, Home Secretary R K Singh, Director of Intelligence Bureau Nehchal Sandhu, Secretary for Higher Education Ashok Thakur and other senior officials.
Krishna is scheduled to address tomorrow the annual meet of the US India Business Council, the largest bilateral trade organisation based in Washington and the premier business advocacy group advancing the Indo-US commercial ties.
"Krishna's participation will provide a boost of confidence into what has been a rewarding US-India commercial partnership these past 20 years, since India first opened its economy in 1991," USIBC president Ron Somers said.
Ahead of the Strategic Dialogue on June 13, the two sides started a number of sub-dialogues, including the Global Issues Forum, Homeland Security Consultations, Strategic Intelligence Dialogue, the Counterterrorism Joint Working Group, Cyber Consultations, Information and Communications Technology Working Group, the Women's Empowerment Dialogue, Dialogue on Health Cooperation and other events.
Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao said the Strategic Dialogue will have discussions on five themes, strategic, defence, homeland security, counter-terrorism and intelligence; economic, energy, climate; S&T, innovation and health; higher education and empowerment; and regional strategies and linkages.
On the margins of and preceding the Strategic Dialogue, Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal will co-chair a meeting with Clinton on education related issues.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh on Tuesday co-chaired the Joint Science and Technology Commission Meeting with John Holdren, President Barack Obama's Advisor on Science and Technology. Azad will co-convene with Clinton and The United Nations Children's Fund, a Call to Maternal and Child Care Action on June 14-15 in Washington.
Image: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna with Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao in Washington
Photograph: Jay Mandal/On Assignment