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US Vice President Joe Biden arrives in India

July 22, 2013 21:05 IST

In the first official visit by a United States vice-president to India in three decades, Joe Biden arrived in India on Monday on a four-day tour aimed at boosting ties in key areas of trade, energy, defence and security.

The US vice-president will hold meetings with top Indian leadership, including President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Tuesday before flying out to Mumbai in the night.

Biden, who was received at the airport by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Indian envoy to the US Nirupama Rao, headed straight to the Gandhi Smriti Bhawan along with his wife Jill, daughter Ashley and son-in-law Howard Krein.

The vice-president spent close to one-and-a-half hours at the memorial, during which he and his family were welcomed with a 'khadi' shawl by Mahatma Gandhi's grand daughter Tara Gandhi Bhhattacharjee.

Meanwhile, official sources said the focus of Biden's maiden visit will be on the four key areas of economic and trade ties, energy and climate change, defence co-operation and a wide range of regional co-operation.

Biden, 70, who had visited New Delhi in 2008 as a Senator, wanted to travel to this country in his first term as vice-president.

He will also hold talks with Vice President Hamid Ansari, who will host a dinner in the honour of the visiting dignitary.

Incidentally, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is not calling on the US vice-president.

Biden, while speaking at the prestigious George Washington University last week, had said, "One of the reasons why President (Barack) Obama called our relations with India, quote, 'a defining partnership of the century ahead' is that India is increasingly looking east as a force for security and growth in Southeast Asia and beyond".

Biden will fly to Mumbai where he is expected to hold a round-table with business leaders and press for stronger intellectual property protection.

While trade has grown in recent years, there is still widespread frustration among US business leaders over some trading practices which they term as protectionists. India, in turn, has been complaining about the US visa regime for IT professionals, including a hike in the visa fee.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma were both in Washington last week to pitch for investment and discuss India's readiness to open talks on a bilateral investment treaty.

Biden will be the senior-most administration official to visit India since President Barack Obama came in 2010.

Biden is expected to set up an "ambitious vision" for India-US relationship, in addition to attending a women's empowerment event at IIT Mumbai.

He would leave for Singapore on July 25.

All this while, Jill would hold a series of health and nutritional events in New Delhi and Mumbai and visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.

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