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Dialogue will pave the future course for US-India ties: Blake

May 29, 2010 15:53 IST

The Obama administration's point man for South Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has assured that there will be deliverables from the first US-India Strategic Dialogue that will be held in Washington, DC, on June 2-3.

The dialogue will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and will serve as a precursor to President Obama's visit to India later this year.

At a news briefing at the state department, Blake said, "What's notable about this is that it will be the first time our two governments are going to have really a whole-of-government conversation about not so much what we've accomplished, but to look ahead about what we can accomplish and particularly look ahead to the President visit sometime this fall to India."

He said the dialogue would comprise two sessions, a plenary session that "will cover all the bilateral issues that we are working on -- counterterrorism, export controls and high technology, economic and finance, infrastructure, education, energy climate change.

"And the purpose of that is really, again, to look broadly at the relationships to try to break down some of these stovepipes that we've seen and think creatively and strategically about the new opportunities before us in this relationship."

Then over lunch on June 3, Blake said, "the secretary and External Affairs Minister Krishna will have a discussion on both the global issues but again come back to some of the important regional issues."

"Later in the day, there will be a reception that the secretary will host to honor the Indian delegation, but also to include many of the members of the Indian diaspora and other people who contribute so much to our relations."

Blake said, "We're very proud of the 2.5 million Indian Americans who really do provide a unique bridge for the United States with our friends in India."

"We are also proud of the hundred thousand plus Indian students that are here studying in the United States -- the largest single group of foreign students," he added.

"And again, we think that this education bill that's now pending in the Indian parliament will help to broaden even further the education cooperation in that area."

Blake asserted that "there will be deliverables. (But) I don't want to talk about the deliverables now".

He argued that "the purpose of the dialogue is really to think strategically and, again, to get the key people who work on these issues together to think ahead to the president's visit and think strategically about what we can do."

"It's really to think ahead. And when we have all these senior-level officials together in one place, we have to take maximum advantage of their time and, again, use it productively," he said.

"So, that's the real purpose of the Strategic Dialogue, It's not to supplant the 18 different dialogues that we have, headed by all these different cabinet ministries on both sides," he said. "Those will be really the areas during these dialogues where they will announce deliverables of one sort of another."

Besides Clinton, the US team will comprise National Security Adviser Retd. Gen. Jim Jones, Education Secretary Gary Locke, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, US Agency for International Development Administrator Dr Raj Shah, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

The Indian side led by Krishna will include Education Minister Kapil Sibal, Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Ahluwalia, Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

On the sidelines of the US-India Strategic Dialogue, the US-India Business Council will also hold its 35th anniversary, which will be keynoted by Obama's head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Larry Summers, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan also on tap to speak.

Among the others billed to speak are Krishna, former US Defense Secretary William Cohen, Sibal, Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, outgoing USIBC chairperson Indra Nooyi and the new chair, Harold 'Terry' McGraw III.
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC