Persisting terror threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan and implementation of civil nuclear deal are expected to figure prominently when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama meet in Bali, Indonesia, on Friday, their first since the latter's visit in New Delhi last year.
Singh will also have a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summits taking place in the Indonesian island province on Friday. The Prime Minister will embark tomorrow on his four-day trip during which he will also pay a bilateral visit to Singapore.
Singh and Obama will be meeting for the first time since the US President's State visit here in November last year, although the two leaders have been in touch by phone and letters, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry Sanjay Singh told reporters here. The meeting will provide them an opportunity to review the decisions and outcomes of Obama's visit besides discussing regional issues like the situation in India's neighbourhood, he said.
Sources said the persisting terror threat emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan is expected to figure prominently in the discussions between the two leaders. The implementation of the civil nuclear deal is also likely to come up for discussion in the backdrop of the US' insistence that India should, at the earliest, put in place all rules relating to the nuclear commerce in tune with the international regulations, the sources said.
Singh and the Chinese Premier will also have a meeting during which the two leaders are expected to discuss issues related to the boundary question and rapidly-growing bilateral trade. Sanjay Singh noted that the Prime Minister and Wen share a "good working relationship" but refused to predict the subjects that would come up for discussions.
The two countries are in the process of finalising a joint mechanism for border management and is expected to be put in place during the talks between Special Representatives here later this month. To a question about reports that ULFA leader Paresh Barua was hiding in China and whether it would figure in the talks between Singh and Wen, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said "we have seen the media report but we do not have any credible information at present before us to comment on this."
At the same time, he said, the "presence of Indian insurgents and availability of arms in the region has figured in talks with the Chinese in the past." The India-ASEAN and East Asia Summits will focus on enhancing connectivity and cooperation, particularly in the areas of energy, trade and investment, which assumes added significance in view of the economic crisis faced by the US and Europe. India and ASEAN have already signed a Free Trade Agreement in goods and are negotiating such a pact in services and investment. Sanjay Singh said negotiations are in progress and hoped these would be completed successfully. He, however, made it clear that this issue will not figure at the Summit.
The MEA Secretary said a number of joint projects were under consideration in various areas, including Information Technology and renewable energy. He said India and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) were also looking at cooperation in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.
An MoU in the field of tourism between India and the 10-nation ASEAN grouping is on the anvil besides an agreement on air services. India will host India-ASEAN summit next year. Sanjay Singh noted that trade between India and ASEAN nations has been growing and expressed the confidence that the target of USD 70 billion to be achieved by 2012 will be met.
The 6th East Asia Summit, which the Prime Minister will attend, will also focus on connectivity and economic ties "against the backdrop of increasing importance of Asia in geo-political scenario", Sanjay Singh said. The Summit of the 16-nation grouping will see the US and Russia participating for the first time as partners. In the second leg of the trip, Singh will travel to Singapore for a bilateral visit, marking the first since 2002.
He had visited Singapore in 2007 for India-ASEAN Summit. "The aim of the visit is to maintain high level of dialogue with Singapore, which is India's major partner in East Asia," the MEA Secretary said. He said India and Singapore have robust relations in trade and investment and a fruitful dialogue in the field of defence as both share concern over terrorism and security issues.