ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Indian PM to review ties during US visit
Publication Date : 26-09-2013
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be looking to bring home some momentum to India-US ties during his visit to the US, where he will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday.
Singh, who left on Wednesday on a four-day visit to the United States, is expected to convey the message that India is still serious about moving forward on the nuclear deal, which was signed in 2008 but has been stuck over the issue of liability.
The Indian Cabinet on Tuesday night approved a preliminary pact between Nuclear Power Corp of India and US company Westinghouse to start the process to set up nuclear reactors in India. The pact, although a small step forward, is likely to be finalised during his visit.
"My visit is an opportunity to review our joint efforts and chart a course for our future cooperation," said Singh, in a departure statement where he termed ties with the US as being among India's "most important relationships".
Singh has always put a lot of stock in building ties with the US, even staking his government on the India-US nuclear deal in 2008. The deal brought India out of nuclear isolation following nuclear tests in 1998, which resulted in sanctions against India.
But the momentum has tapered off in recent years with the two countries disagreeing over not just India's nuclear liability, which the US says is too strict as it allows the operator of a nuclear plant to seek damages from the supplier, but also in other areas such as economic cooperation.
Though trade between India and the US has increased from US$9 billion in 1995 to nearly $100 billion this year, American businesses have been vocal about the difficulties of doing business in India.
While highlighting the economic reforms taken by his government to attract foreign investment, Singh is also expected to seek clarification from Obama on the proposed immigration reforms in the US that restrict visas for information technology workers and would hurt Indian software companies that base its employees at US locations.
Analysts said the visit will focus on reviewing ties.
"It is going to be a stock-taking visit," said former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh. "They won't be looking at long-term and fresh initiatives but getting rid of current irritants."
Singh has other challenges on the foreign policy front. He is holding bilateral meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
With Pakistan, this will be the first high-level engagement after ties came to a grinding halt over the killing of Indian soldiers on the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two countries, in January this year. New Delhi blamed Pakistan for the killings, which Islamabad denied.
"This is an opportunity to see how the two prime ministers view the next phase of relationship," said former Indian diplomat and foreign secretary Salman Haider.
Hopes are that the stalled talks would resume following talks.
As for his meeting with the Bangladesh prime minister, Singh will have to explain why India has not been able to move forward on important border and water-sharing agreements, both bogged down in domestic politics.