US sees progress on key issues before Obama visit

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Thursday, October 28, 2010

WASHINGTON - Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s trip to India, officials indicated forward movement in ironing out differences on issues ranging from India’s nuclear liability regime to US export controls on high tech items as it sees India as a “very important market and a “key economic ally”.

“We see India as an indispensable partner for the US both on a bilateral basis and in the region and in the global context,” the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, told reporters Thursday.

Calling India “a cornerstone of our broader Asia approach” focused on expanding US exports and forging strong partnerships in the region, he said one of the key goals of US foreign policy was to take the India-US relationship to a new level.

Asked about India’s long standing desire for permanent membership of UN Security Council, he linked it to broader UN reforms saying “As a principle, we seek arrangements which have greater voice for India typically and as a rising power generally.”

Michael Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said US “strongly favoured India’s emergence as a more consequential actor in the international system.”

But the test is in maintaining effectiveness of the institutions, he said, “and that’s the issue we have to work through with India.”

On export controls, Froman said while a general reform was underway, US was “in dialogue with India on a number of specific issues India plays in our export control system so as to create more opportunities for exports to India.”

The two sides were “trying to work through as best as we can” on a range of issues relating to trade and investment ahead of the trip, he said declining to spell out the deliverables.

Asked if Kashmir could figure in the talks, Rhodes said it could in the context of a discussion on the region. But while US supported a dialogue between India and Pakistan, it was for the two countries to determine the scope and pace of their dialogue.

On India’s grouse that the US had not shared information about David Coleman Headley, a key plotter of the Mumbai attacks, Rhodes said that if the US had information on specific aspects of the attack before, it would have certainly shared it.

The US Director of National Intelligence had ordered a full review of the Headley case and would share with India all the facts after they are put together.

India was “one of the most important emerging economic relationships for the United States,” Froman said. “With 1.2 billion people and an economy expected to grow at 8 percent a year for the next several years, we really see India as a potentially very important market for US exports.”

By starting in India, the president is signalling the importance of relations with a key economic ally, said Bill Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs.

“The simple truth is that India’s rise and its strength and progress on the global stage is deeply in the strategic interest of the United States,” Burns said, noting that Obama has called the US relationship with India a “defining partnership of the 21st century.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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