Obama visit: India downplays differences, hopes for high-tech trade

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NEW DELHI - Two days ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit, India Thursday sought to downplay differences over a host of persisting issues like outsourcing and a UN Security Council seat and hoped for a positive outcome over easing of high-tech exports and civil nuclear trade between the two countries.

Briefing reporters over Omaba’s Nov 6-9 visit, his first to India, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao cautioned against jumping to hasty conclusions over issues and hoped that the presidential trip will be an important milestone in elevating our global strategic partnership to a new level”.

Rao said there has been a good working progress on the elimination of restrictions over export of dual-use technologies as the governments of both countries were of the view that the issue needed to be reviewed in order to reduce and ultimately eliminate it.

She said India was reasonably optimistic about the relaxation of US high-tech exports and its support for joining elite nuclear clubs like the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The discussions have covered considerable ground. We are reasonably optimistic about the outcome, Rao said.

She said this when asked whether India was expecting the US’ expression of support for joining elite nuclear clubs like the NSG, the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement that control global trade in sensitive dual-use technologies.

When asked about Obama’s remarks in an interview that the easing of high-tech exports was a difficult issue, Rao sought to downplay it and warned against jumping to hasty conclusions.

Striking an upbeat note on completing the remaining steps to implement the nuclear deal, Rao said that India has invited US companies to explain to them the provisions of its domestic civil nuclear liability law and address their concerns. We are hopeful of American companies participating in India’s nuclear sector. We are at a stage where commercial negotiations could begin, she said, adding that a large commercial delegation from the US is likely to visit India shortly in this connection.

Rao highlighted issues that will figure in discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Obama that will include the global economic situation, the threat of terrorism, convergent interests of both India and the US in Afghanistan and challenges emanating from Pakistan and the shared goals of sustained security, stability and prosperity in Asia.

The US administration under President Obama has expressed its commitment to strengthen Indo-US bilateral relations further, building upon the existing level of cooperation in various areas of bilateral and global engagement, she said.

However, Rao sought to downplay issues over which India and the US don’t see eye to eye. When asked about Obama’s vacillation in a pre-visit interview about supporting India for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Rao said that both sides have discussed it in a “candid, open and transparent manner.. The US is fully increasingly aware of India’s potential for contribution to global affairs and global security”.

Besides strategic issues, the two sides are expected to deepen their development cooperation by signing some pacts in diverse areas, including agriculture, space, health and clean energy.

Downplaying the row over the nature of information sharing by the US over Pakistan-American David Headley’s link to the Lashkar plan to target Mumbai, Rao underlined that that there has been unprecedented bilateral counter-terror cooperation. We have not been denied any information, she added.

Similarly she sought to create a positive pitch for the presidential visit, saying India will seek to convey that outsourcing has actually created thousands of jobs in the US, and not taken them away.

Rao assured that Obama’s visit will see concrete and significant steps in a wide range of areas that will expand the long-term strategic framework of the relationship.

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