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Are India, US close to a nuclear deal?

world Updated: Sep 26, 2013 02:43 IST
Yashwant Raj

US frustration over stalled economic reforms in India is likely to figure prominently at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with President Barack Obama on Friday.

As it is has in all recent high-level exchanges between the two countries, including vice president Joe Biden’s visit to India in July, and during US visits by Indian ministers.

The need for additional reforms will be the “centerpiece” of the Friday discussions, said a senior US administration official on Wednesday previewing the coming visit. The two sides are also hoping to close an early works agreement on the stalled civil nuclear deal, another frustration for the US, but won’t confirm if an announcement was coming. An agreement or an announcement of one coming soon is expected, said Carnegie endowment’s Ashley Tellis, adding every India-US negotiation goes down to the wire.

This could be the single most important outcome of the visit.

Despite the “room for improvement”, said the official, the relationship was in good health. The first lady, Michelle Obama, will be hosting Gursharan Kaur, the prime minister’s wife, to tea in the private residence, before the bilateral meeting. Kaur will also attend the swearing in of Judge Sri Srinivasan to the DC circuit court of appeals, which puts him in line for a possible Supreme Court promotion.

Singh and Obama will have lunch after their bilateral meeting — a quiet affair unlike the formal state dinner of 2009. “They share a strong personal relationship,” said the official. The official admitted the stalled reforms were a significant sticking point with both the US government and businesses.

US businesses and, at their prompting, the government want India to drop certain trade policies they consider discriminatory to American firms.