Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet with United States President Barack Obama at the White House next month, where the two leaders will chart a course seeking enhanced bilateral ties and defence cooperation between the two countries, US officials have said. Dr Singh will visit the White House on September 27.
The announcement of his visit came as renewed tensions along the Kashmir border threaten to sabotage efforts by India and Pakistan to improve bilateral ties. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon met his US counterpart Susan Rice, and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to prepare for the "working visit" of the PM on Tuesday.
"This meeting follows the prime minister's visit to Washington in 2009, and the President's visit to India in 2010, and it will highlight India's role in regional security and stability and provide an opportunity for the two leaders to chart a course toward enhanced trade, investment, and development cooperation between the United States and India," National Security Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden, said after the meeting.
"It's a working visit. It's a short visit. But I think, in terms of the substance, it is going to be a good visit," Menon said adding that the PM's meeting will be followed by lunch. Rest of the logistics of the trip is still being worked out, he added.
At the White House, Rice told Menon that Obama was looking forward to his meeting with the prime minister. "Noting our growing bilateral ties with India, Ambassador Rice said that the president was looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Singh to the White House on Friday, September 27," Hayden said.
Menon is believed to have briefed Hagel on what is now being called as Carter-Menon initiative and the progress made so far in taking the India-US defence relationship to the next level. "During the PM's visit we would certainly tell you how far we got and what we expect. It could be (path breaking), Menon said." It is still a work in progress. But it is significant. The basic idea behind it is to move from a buyer seller situation to actually co-developing, co-producing various defence acquisitions.
"And we do this together and that could involve the transfer and working together at much higher levels of technology that we have so far," he said.
During the meeting Menon and Rice reviewed the US-India strategic partnership. "Rice reaffirmed the United States' commitment to further expanding and strengthening our bilateral relationship, including economic and commercial ties," Hayden said.
After his meeting with Hagel, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said, it was in preparation for Dr Singh's visit to Washington this September. "Hagel emphasised the department of defence's commitment to continuing progress on defence cooperation including in the areas of trade and regional security," Little said.
"Hagel extends his condolences to the families of the sailors who died in the INS Sindhurakshak submarine accident last week," he said. "I leave confident that preparations are well under way and are headed in the right direction for a very successful visit by the prime minister," Menon said at the conclusion of his six-day US trip, during which he met a host of top ranking officials of the Obama administration.
Expressing satisfaction over his meetings, Menon said he and his US counterparts looked at other forms of collaborations between the two countries like renewable energy and climate change. "We discussed regional security, stability in the neighbourhood, and some of the larger global issues," he said.
"I think if you think back and many of you have been here for some time and you know where this relationship has been in previous years. It really is one of the fastest transforming and at the same time one of the most important relationships for us today," Menon said. "A measure of that is the number of high level Indians who have come and spoken here in the last few months and I think, the prime minister's visit would be a culmination of that," he said.
Menon who had arrived in Washington on August 15, left the country on Tuesday night. Among others he met Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and the US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, besides holding round tables with some think tanks. "Ambassador Rice and NSA Menon also discussed India's continued support for a stable, secure, and prosperous Afghanistan," Hayden said.
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with US President Barack Obama to meet on September 27