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India-US looks for ‘concrete delivarables’ during Obama’s three-day visit

NEW DELHI(PTI): Moving forward on issues of civil nuclear deal, technology transfer and joint ventures in defence will be among the key areas where India and the US will like to have “concrete deliverables” during the three-day high-voltage trip of US President Barack Obama from Sunday.

However, the US President’s schedule, which earlier included a visit to iconic Taj, had to be readjusted due to his last minute plans to travel to Riyadh on January 27 to pay respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. President Obama “regrets” not being able to visit the Taj, White House said in a statement. Both countries are working hard to have “excellent” outcomes during the visit of Obama, who will have a tight schedule including talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, attending Republic Day celebrations as the Chief Guest, meeting with business leaders, and an address on ‘India and America: The Future We Can Build Together’.

Describing the Presidential visit as “one of our most important diplomatic engagements in recent times”, Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin had said cooperation in key areas of defence, security, counter-terrorism and the situation in India’s extended neighbourhood would be among the issues to be discussed between Obama and Prime Minister Modi. Asked about the differences between the two sides on the nuclear deal, he said that “progress has been made” during the previous negotiations and India was looking forward to “effectively” work with the US in the “extremely important” nuclear field.

The Indian liability law holds the suppliers directly liable in case of a nuclear accident while countries like France and the US have asked India to follow global norms under which the primary liability is with the operator. Since all the nuclear power plants in the country are run by the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, following international norms will mean the government would have to pay the damages in case of an accident. Another contentious clause in the liability law was unlimited liability for which international companies will find it difficult to get insurers. According to the sources, progress was made during the two-day meeting of Indo-US Contact Group in London, but some lingering issues may require resolution at the political level.

The two countries will also deliberate on ways to boost trade and economic ties as well as the crucial issue of climate change. Earlier this week, American Ambassador Richard Verma had noted that bilateral trade that had grown five fold to US $100 billion in the past decade, and added that, “We believe there is no reason it can’t grow another five-fold, to US $500 billion by 2020.” Verma also said the US continued to “look forward to implementing the civil nuclear cooperation initiative to support the prime minister’s goal of providing 24-hour electricity to all Indians by 2020”.

Climate change issue is also expected to figure prominently in talks between Modi and Obama. Ahead of the talks , Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had said the Narendra Modi-led government does not “act under pressures” on green issues as its commitment is to millions of poor in the country who voted it to power with “great aspirations” in the last general elections. He dismissed suggestions that the US was exercising pressure on India as far as climate change issue is concerned.

“We actually can co-partner on many issues. We expect that America, because it understands India’s requirements, we will have good arrangements where we are also pro-active and positive and at the same time we get funds and technology. It is not about getting funds… Our actions will be more impressive then,” the minister said yesterday. India has asserted that it sees the US as a key partner for capital, technology, knowledge and skills in its development effort as also potentially important source of clean energy technology and hydrocarbons.

“It is an important partner in areas like defence technology and counter-terrorism,” the MEA Spokesperson had said. “US is also an important factor in our space security and cyber security and a key interlocutor in adjustments to the global security and economic architecture including reforms of the UN Security Council,” he said and also described it as a partner in the quest for a rule based, open international trading and economic order. It is an important partner in India’s efforts to seek peace and stability in our extended neighbourhood and globally, the Spokesperson had added