Wednesday, November 25, 2009

India indispensable...n-power: Obama

In their joint statement, the US President and Indian PM have identified five core areas to carry forward their strategic ties..

In their first steps towards taking the Indo-US strategic partnership to a new level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Barack Obama sought to consolidate gains rather than break new ground as they identified five core areas to carry forward what the US President called the "defining partnership of the 21st century."

With the agreement on reprocessing US-origin nuclear fuel hitting a roadblock, the best takeaway for both sides was the ever-improving personal equation between the two leaders.

Obama referred to Singh as a "wise leader" and a person of "honesty and integrity". "I respect him and I trust him," said Obama. "And I have happily accepted his gracious invitation to visit India next year."

The PM praised Obama's leadership at the G-20 as major economies grappled with the economic crisis.

Seeking to make India a partner in his efforts on disarmament and non-proliferation, Obama referred to India as a "nuclear power" and hoped to build a partnership in this regard. "As nuclear powers, we can be full partners in preventing the spread of the world's most deadly weapons, securing loose nuclear materials from terrorists, and pursuing our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons."

This had a reflection in the issues on which India and US agreed. One of them was explicit support from India for an early start of negotiations on a multilateral, non-discriminatory and internationally verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

The two leaders agreed to consult each other regularly as Obama prepares for the Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010.

While calling India a leader in Asia and "indispensable" to the "future we want to build," Obama was cautious when it came to Indian concerns over its military assistance to Pakistan.

"One of the things I admire most about Prime Minister Singh is that I think at his core he is a man of peace. Obviously, there are historic conflicts between India and Pakistan. It is not the place of the United States to try to, from the outside, resolve all those conflicts. On the other hand, we want to be encouraging of ways in which both India and Pakistan can feel secure and focus on the development of their own countries and their people."

He then went on to add: "With respect to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan's military, I think that there have probably been times in the past in which we were so single-mindedly focused just on military assistance in Pakistan that we didn't think more broadly about how to encourage and develop the kinds of civil society in Pakistan that would make a difference in the lives of people day-to-day."

The Indian side, however, was more focused on bilateral issues while trying to get a sense of Obama's vision for Asia. In this context, the two sides agreed on an exhaustive list for cooperation in different areas but, as the PM pointed out, there was still hope that US could lift restrictions on US technology transfer to India. There was no forward movement on the issue during the visit but both sides hoped to carry forward the conversation.

The five areas that India and US agreed to work on:

Advancing Global Security and Countering Terrorism: This includes expansion of the India-US Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative by committing to strengthen global consensus and legal regimes against terrorism. It also extends Indian support for early to start to FMCT negotiations.

Green Partnerships: This deals with launch of an Indo-US Clean Energy Research and Deployment Initiative, supported by government funding and private sector contributions. This includes a Joint Research Center operating in both India and the US to foster innovation and joint efforts to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies. The Initiative will also facilitate joint research and provide support for Indian National Environmental Protection Authority that will focus on creating a more effective system of environmental governance, regulation and enforcement.

Economic Trade and Agriculture: Launch of a new Agriculture Dialogue and an MoU on Agricultural Cooperation and Food Security that will focus on crop forecasting, management and market information. Also, this has an MoU on intellectual property.

Enhancing US-India Cooperation on Education and Development: Expansion of Fulbright-Nehru Scholarship Program and launch of Obama-Singh knowledge initiative.

Health Cooperation: Creation of a seventh Regional Global Disease Detection Center in India as a part of the Global Disease Detection network and launch of a Health dialogue.

Earlier, Obama welcomed Singh, saying: "Yours is the first official state visit of my presidency, it is fitting that you and India be so recognised... We want to build a future in which India is indispensable... India and US can strengthen the global economic recovery."

Noting that India and US share a "common story" of two "proud people" who struggled to break free from an empire and declare their independence, Obama said they are two great republics dedicated to ideals of liberty, justice, equality, and the "never-ending work of perfecting their union."

On his part, Singh said, "We should cooperate in addressing global challenges of combating terrorism, making our environment cleaner, and moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons."

Flanked by business leaders Ratan Tata, Sunil Mittal, Kris Gopalakrishnan and Deepak Parekh, Singh hoped that the two countries will be able to "harness the potential" of their talented people.

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Tags:News,Indo-American relations,Obama,Manmohan singh.


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