Singh and Obama are meeting for their third summit with an intent to give added meaning and content to their strategic partnership, including ways to counter terror, and iron out differences over trade and economic issues.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama are meeting in Washington for their third summit on Friday (2100 IST) with an intent to “give added meaning and content” to their strategic partnership, including ways to counter terror, and iron out differences over trade and economic issues.
The activities of Pakistan based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed were very much on the agenda “especially because it was a very great concern nationally for us” Indian Ambassador Nirumpama Rao said adding, “US was aware of that and is concerned about that.”
As Manmohan Singh said on arrival on Thursday, the US is one of India most important strategic and trading partners and an “important provider of investment and technology support for India’s development.
“We need the United States on our side as we move to give new added thrust to our development programmes,” said Manmohan Singh, who turned 82, as he sits down with Obama, 52, mid-morning at his Oval Office at the White House for an hour-long chat to review their ties spread over diverse fields.
Vice President Joe Biden will join the two leaders “as they chart a course toward enhanced trade, investment, and development cooperation between the United States and India,” according to the White House.
With corporate America mounting a shrill campaign about “India’s discriminatory trade policies” the US has also signalled its intention to make its concerns about doing business in India the “centrepiece for discussions” between the two leaders.
Previewing the visit with Indian media on the eve of the summit Indian ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao said India had sought to address US corporate concerns in an “open and candid manner” and hoped US would understand India’s development challenges.
On its part, India would certainly take up Indian IT industry’s concerns over the Senate version of the US immigration bill that could lead to Indian companies such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS paying steep visa fees as penalty that could render them uncompetitive.
India had already discussed the matter “in a very candid and forthright manner” with the administration and on the Capitol Hill and “I believe our concerns are understood,” Rao said pointing out that the law was “still a work in progress” and its final outcome was difficult to predict.
Asserting that the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal was “certainly not in cold storage” she said Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and US-based supplier Westinghouse were in “active talks” and “very near finishing” their negotiations.
“We believe or hope there will be good outcome,” Rao said indicating the likelihood of the two companies signing a “Pre Early Works Agreement” on setting up a nuclear plant at Chayya-Mithivirdi in Gujarat.
In the context of the latest terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, Rao said India had obviously not let the issue of cross-border terrorism off the radar.
On reports that the US National Security Agency had spied on the Indian embassy in Washington and the Indian UN office in New York, the ambassador “couldn’t say specifically” whether it would be taken up at the Friday summit.
But “we have raised this issue with the American side and they are aware of our concerns,” Rao said and given the level of understanding between the two governments, they were discussing it in a “dispassionate and objective” manner.
As Manmohan Singh meets Obama at his Oval Office at the White House, First lady Michelle Obama will host a separate tea for the Prime Minister’s wife Gursharan Kaur in the residential wing.
After the summit and a brief media appearance for statements by both leaders, Singh and Obama will sit down for a working lunch along with their respective delegations.
Immediately after the summit, Manmohan Singh leaves for New York, where he will address the UN general assembly on Saturday and meet the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday.