» News » On PM's US agenda: N-deal, Headley and Indo-Pak ties

On PM's US agenda: N-deal, Headley and Indo-Pak ties

By Renu Mittal
November 20, 2009 21:18 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to articulate his concerns on the terrorism emanating from Pakistan during his meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington on November 24, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told mediapersons on the eve of Dr Singh's nine-day long foreign tour.

Dr Singh will leave on Saturday for his state visit to Washington and then travel to Port of Spain for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Dr Singh is also expected to tell Obama that India wants Pakistan to dismantle the terrorism infrastructure operating on its soil and ensure that its land is not used to launch acts of terror against India. However, there is no word on whether Dr Singh will take up the controversial US-China joint statement. 

The visit looks at much wider-ranging issues and "is an opportunity for the two leaders to get to know each other and build a strong foundation for a future relationship," said Rao.

After the US-China joint statement, all eyes are now on the Indo-US joint statement, which will reflect the outcome of the PM's state visit. Political analysts are curious as to whether the Indo-US joint statement will overtly or covertly mention the fact that the Indo-Pakistan issue will be resolved bilaterally, without any mediation from a third party. But senior officials insist that the issue will not cast a shadow on the Dr Singh-Obama meeting at the White House.

There is no big ticket agenda to Dr Singh's US visit this time, unlike in the past when his visits were invariably linked with the successful completion of the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

One of the highlights of Dr Singh's visit is the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries on counter-terrorism, which means that India and the US, for the first time, will jointly operate a counter-terrorism mechanism. Indian officials believe that this will open up the possibility of India being involved wherever the US undertakes such operations. This is significant in the context of Pakistan, where the US is already active, and Afghanistan, where India has a major stake.

With India and the US seeking to consolidate their relationship further post the civil nuclear deal and post the George W Bush era, a number of other MOUs are expected to be signed during the state visit.

One of the more interesting MoUs is being called the Singh-Obama Knowledge Initiative, where the two countries will cooperate in the field of education and exchange of professionals, particularly at the junior level, and other research initiatives. Other MOUs will be in the fields of renewable energy, agriculture, intellectual property rights and business.

The PM, in his meeting with Obama, will be taking up the issue of reforms in the United Nations and a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council, bilateral co-operation on defence, security, counter-terrorism, international terrorism, environment issues, climate change, energy security, as well as the need to fast track business and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Foreign Secretary Rao said both the US and India are committed to the 123 nuclear agreement, which gives development benefits to India and business opportunities to the US government. Addressing concerns about the delay in the implementation of the deal, Rao added that India was confident of the timelines being observed on the agreement.

With the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack falling on the same day the PM  leaves the US, Dr Singh is expected to ask the US President to help expedite the extradition of terror suspect David Headley, who is currently in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for allegedly planning terror attacks in India and Denmark.

While Indian authorities are in touch with their US counterparts and the legal process is underway, the PM will certainly like to come back with some firm commitments on security and terrorism, to showcase his visit as one that worked out to India's benefit.

For the last five years of his prime ministership, Dr Singh had established a great working relationship with President Bush, openly acknowledging him as a 'friend of India', even going to the extent of declaring 'India loves Bush'.

But with President Obama in the saddle now, Dr Singh travels to Washington on Saturday at the invitation of the US President, who has made him his first official state guest. The ceremonial red carpet welcomes and dinner menus are likely to take up much column space during his high-profile visit.

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Renu Mittal In New Delhi