The truly substantive part of US President Barack Obama's visit to India began on Sunday evening with his arrival in Delhi. In Mumbai, he mainly spoke of deals with India that were already done, and the jobs these would create in the US.
Though he did offer some glimpse of the US's
thinking on Pakistan in an interaction with college students, it is what he says on Monday that will spell out the contours of Washington's political outlook on India — be it on the question of India gaining a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council, or on issues related to Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as east Asia.
Barack and Michelle Obama arrived to a rousing welcome at Delhi's airport at around 3.20 pm, where, in a rare gesture, they were received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur.
Only twice before has Prime Minister Singh travelled to the airport to receive a visiting head of state: they were then US president George Bush and the Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdullah Aziz, both in 2006.
Obama hugged Singh warmly while Michelle held Gursharan's hand, but body language notwithstanding, top sources here said they are not expecting very much from Obama on Monday.
They do not expect Obama, for instance, to endorse India's longstanding demand for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council (UNSC).
The best they hope for is that the language Obama uses while referring to this demand will go a little further than the usual cliché about India being a 'natural choice' for UNSC membership.
"We expect the US to endorse our larger role in the affairs of the UN. India's role should reflect the realities of the present century," an Indian official said.
The George Bush administration had offered support to Japan for a permanent seat. Currently, the US is said to be keen on African representation in the UNSC, not on having India.
But India certainly wants the joint statement the two countries draft to make a direct mention of terrorism in the region, and the joint resolve of India and the US in fighting it.
India would also like a greater say in Afghanistan and its future.
"Whatever happens in Afghanistan has a direct consequence on our internal security, so we need to be in the loop. We have been contributing considerably to the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan," said an official.
New Delhi has also noted with appreciation the greater focus of the current US administration on east Asia, unlike the Bush-regime. Singh's formal meeting with Obama - there is a private dinner on Sunday night as well - will begin at 10.50 am Monday at Hyderabad House.
Assisting him in the discussions external affairs minister SM Krishna and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. The two leaders will then address a joint press conference.
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