|Print this article|
Sources in the Indian government have made it clear that there is not going to be any 'big bang' news to be expected from United States President Barack Obama's forthcoming visit to India in November.
As is the norm in high-level meetings, the two leaders can be expected to discuss a range of strategic issues affecting the Asian region. The 'Asian balance' will naturally figure in their talks. The content of discussions is certainly much richer than it used to be in the past, as they range from India's stance within the G20, Asia, Middle East etc.
Elaborating further on the 'Asian balance', the sources categorically said that both the US and India are engaging with China.
"There is competition with China but we are not ganging up with anyone," the sources underlined.
Reportage: Sheela Bhatt in Delhi
The Indian sources expect that the emphasis of the American side will be on economic issues.
On the other hand, the Indian side looks forward to a 'decent conversation' on regional issues as well, apart from global strategic issues.
President Obama's Mumbai visit has mainly three highlights. While staying at the Taj Hotel -- one of the sites of the 26/11 terror strike -- he would be talking about counter-terrorism related issues.
While meeting prominent Indian businessmen, he will touch upon bilateral trade related issues. In Mumbai, Obama will have a town-hall kind of a meeting to share his views with a larger audience, probably the youth, said sources.
The Indian establishment is also expecting some violent, distracting event to create an atmosphere of insecurity in the region in the immediate run-up to President Obama's arrival in India. Sources pointed out that during President George W Bush and President Bill Clinton's visits to India earlier, violent incidents had taken place.
When asked to elaborate, the sources said there is no specific information about any such likely incident. "But it fits into their [Pakistani] narrative to create a perception that the region is a nuclear hot spot," they said
About bilateral issues, sources admitted that the government is worried about the increasing protectionism in the United States and the visa restrictions. "The issue of protectionism has not reached a point to affect bilateral relations, but it has the potential to do so," sources said.
When asked about Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's statement blaming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for lack of progress in the Indo-Pak dialogue, the source said that such statements are to be expected days before such an important visit.
Similarly, the Indian government is aware that some elements will try to rake up the Kashmir issue to create an atmosphere of instability in the nuclear-powered region, said the source.
Quite obviously, the Indian government is playing down the US President's visit, estimating that it is prudent not to create a hype that may not be vindicated eventually.
But the source didn't completely rule out a 'big ticket event' either, by pointing out that during such summits, the discussions between the two sides invariably go on till the very last minute.
India surely expects that the US would ease technological restrictions on Indian firms to import high-tech software and hardware. The sources said that an India-specific review of the restrictions, to reflect the level of the current relationship, is already under way.
India sees the visit as an opportunity to continue what is being done in the areas of climate change, green energy and trade. US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is accompanying Obama.
When asked about the seeming absence of hype about Obama's visit, the source said, "If it is so, then I am happy. Then the real politics would be taken up."
When asked about the expectations of America from the visit, sources said the American President would have to take into consideration his domestic audience. How his visit progresses and how it projects the US would be important for the American side.
India sees bipartisan support to Indo-US relations in Washington as a source of strength. India has reviewed the changes that have taken place after 2005 in the bilateral ties and within the region. The source said, "We have already transformed the relationship since then."
With regard to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, sources said India is ready to sign the international convention, which provides for compensation in case of trans-national implications of a nuclear accident within the framework of our legislation.