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Singh, Obama meeting to boost strategic Indo-US ties

September 26, 2013 17:26 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United States President Barack Obama will meet in Washington on Thursday to chart a course for "future cooperation" in areas such as civil nuclear technology, trade, investment, defence and counter-terrorism, amid perceptions that bilateral strategic ties have plateaued.

Some agreements including in the field of defence are expected to be signed after the summit meeting between the two leaders, their third since 2009.

During the meeting at the Oval Office in the White House, Singh is expected to flag India's concerns over the proposed changes in US visa norms which would affect the highly-skilled IT professionals from India.

Situation in the South Asian region, including Afghanistan after withdrawal of US-led forces next year, besides global issues such as Syria are also expected to figure in the talks.

Before embarking on the visit, Singh said, "Over the past decade, our relationship with the US, which is one of our most important relationships, has transformed into a global strategic partnership."

He said, "The intensive, high-level bilateral visits over the last few months reflect the strong momentum of bilateral engagement. We have also registered impressive progress in our cooperation across the full spectrum of the relationship...My visit is an opportunity to review our joint efforts and chart a course for our future cooperation."

The prime minister said India sees the US as a long-term partner in the country's development efforts, and in fostering a global environment that is conducive to its growth.

Singh said, "For India, the US remains a key source of technology, investment, innovation, resources and one of the most important destinations for our goods and services.

"We have productive and deepening partnerships in trade and investment, defence, counter-terrorism, intelligence, internal security, cyber security, civil nuclear energy, environment, health, higher education, space, science and technology and culture," he said.

President Obama is also looking forward to his meeting with Singh. "He (Obama) very much looks forward to the meeting," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told mediapersons.

"He looks forward to having a discussion about all of the issues and shared objectives that the US and India have," Carney said.

Responding to impressions that there had been a bilateral drift in Indo-US ties, a senior Obama administration official said that a series of high-level exchanges between the two countries, including the India visit by Vice President Joe Biden and now Singh's meeting with Obama is not an indication of a relationship that has plateaued.

"I think, if you look at the relationship over the course of the past decade, its remarkable that some of the most contentious issues which would include defence co-operation, nuclear energy and access to high technology items are the centre piece to this relationship today," the official said.

"During this visit, some of the specific progress, we look forward to celebrating will be the defence trade relationship, expanding defence ties between India and the US and also the civil nuclear initiative making progress on terms of paving way for commercial contract.

"Also making progress on expanding clean energy cooperation and the economic partnership," he said. Noting that in a complex relationship, and certainly in a strategic partnership there are always areas where there is room for more progress, the official said, that includes the concerns of the US government and its businesses about some of the Indian economic policies and the need for some additional economic reform to attract greater international investment.

From Washington, Singh will move to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly on the sidelines of which he will meet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The prime minister said he looked forward to meeting with leaders of neighbouring countries including Pakistan during his visit to New York.

Singh noted that the UN General Assembly will focus this year on the follow up to the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, which marked the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit.

The General Assembly will also look at drawing up the global development agenda after 2015, which is the target date for the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000.

"Despite successes on many parameters, the world as a whole is unlikely to meet the MDGs, and it is important that we sustain our efforts. I will emphasise the importance of maintaining poverty eradication and inclusive development at the core of the post-2015 development agenda," Singh said.

The Sustainable Development Goals that are expected to be drawn up as part of the follow-up to the Rio+20 Conference should ensure a holistic approach to sustainable development objectives, ensuring a balanced treatment of its economic, social and environmental dimensions as well as universal applicability, he stressed.

Ajay Kaul in Washington
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