US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a “working lunch” at the White House on Friday, even as both countries are trying to infuse some fresh energy into a relationship that many say has lost its spark.
The situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and turnaround in US-Iran relations that India sees as “positive” are going to be on the agenda. In bilateral relations, the two sides will move forward on joint design, development and production of defence equipment. Singh is expected to flag concerns over the proposed changes in US visa rules which would affect the highly-skilled IT professionals from India.
Singh was the first state guest for whom Obama had hosted a banquet as president in 2009 and the enthusiasm was apparent; and when he visited India in December 2010, Obama became the first US president to visit India in his first term. This time, when both meet, the meeting would be far more businesslike.
A senior official accompanying the prime minister obliquely admitted the changed tone of Indo-US relations while dismissing suggestions that the US is “disappointed” over the slow progress of the first commercial contract that followed the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement.
“There is nothing like exhilaration or disappointment in a negotiation. Negotiations are about aligning interests. India needs cheap, safe and clean power; the US needs business. So we are working on how we achieve this,” he said.
India and US are looking at statements of intents in various sectors—defence, trade, climate change, investment—to keep the momentum in the ties.
On 27th, Singh will leave for New York, where he will meet Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, two neighbors with whom India has outstanding issues. Singh will have a bilateral meeting with Nepali leaders too.