Obama platter for India: High-tech exports, n-clubs, Kabul role

By Manish Chand, IANS
Sunday, November 7, 2010

NEW DELHI - The US is set to convey its commitment to the easing of high-tech exports to India, support New Delhi’s membership of premier nuclear clubs and back a bigger role for the country in global affairs, specially in East Asia, when US President Barack Obama holds talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday.

Much to the disappointment of many in India, Obama is, however, unlikely to announce explicit and unequivocal support for New Delhi’s claim for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council. At best, he is expected to announce a bigger role for India in the UN and in the international system.

“He will come closer to supporting India for a permanent seat, but will stop short of declaring it explicitly,” Lalit Mansingh, India’s former ambassador to the US, told IANS.

On high tech exports, there will be a positive movement, with Indian officials expecting the US to express its intention to reform the export control laws in the India-US joint statement that is expected after the Obama-Manmohan Singh talks.

In an interaction with business honchos in Mumbai, Obama has already signalled that he is serious about removing “unwanted restrictions” that stand in the way of trade between the two countries.

The removal of three Indian entities on the US export black list, including the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Limited, is likely to be announced. However, Washington will not go the whole hog and discussions are likely to continue for easing restrictions on facilities related to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

The US decision to support India for full membership of the top four nuclear clubs, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australian Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement is expected to be reflected in the joint statement, informed sources said.

This should cheer India’s strategic establishment that has battled for years for the end of technology denial regimes targeted against New Delhi.

As the business of Obama’s India mission is business and outsourcing continuing to be a sore issue, there would be a reference to both countries expressing their commitment to lowering barriers to trade and investment and increased cooperation on global economic issues in global fora like the G20.

On regional and global issues, sources revealed that India is expecting a reference to terror groups active in the region in the joint statement and India and the US joining hands to combat terrorism, which Obama had flagged off in his speech before 26/11 victims in Mumbai Saturday.

There could be a reference to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based terror group which was earlier focused on India and is said to be the principal architect of the Mumbai carnage, but which has now expanded the scope of its jihad to include the US and the West, sources said.

The formulation of Pakistan in the joint statement is still being debated between officials of the two sides. But what is certain is a forceful reiteration of the strengthening of counter-terror cooperation and the US working with India to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror to justice.

The joint statement would acknowledge India’s role in Afghanistan and some proposals for joint work on developmental projects in that conflict-battered country.

There will be a message for Beijing also, which is closely watching Obama’s visit to India. Much to the chagrin of Beijing, there will be a reference to India’s bigger role in East Asia, which Beijing is prone to see as its backyard, and collaboration in developmental projects in Africa where the Chinese surge has evoked anxieties about resource exploitation.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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