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Business focus of Obama visit

US President Barack Obama will kick off his India visit with a string of meetings with captains of India Inc in Mumbai, as the US wants to send a strong message that the world's second fastest growing economy is of utmost importance to it.

world Updated: Oct 30, 2010 16:58 IST
Yashwant Raj

With the big elephant out of the way, the stage is set for President Barack Obama to begin a visit that is being hawked to mean different things to different people depending on who is listening.

White House released visit details and the messages on Wednesday. For India, the message was a tribute to its rise.

Asia is the new focus for the US and India was the cornerstone of its new strategy, said Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Advisor, in his pitch at a briefing for Indian journalists.

For the US, the message was the jobs the trip could fetch.

The focus of the visit was economic — it's about jobs, said Michael Froman, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs at a briefing for White House journalists.

But first, the big elephant, the biggest recent irritant for the US: the nuclear liability bill. India signed a convention on supplementary compensation on Wednesday that has basically addressed US's main concern on the issue. "It's a positive move," under secretary William Burns said at the White House briefing. The US companies wanted a level playing field and they have it. "Very important development," said another state department official.

The convention has to be ratified for all countries for it to come into effect. But for now, the US is relieved.

So what can India expect during Obama's trip?

The officials were non-committal on a permanent membership of the UN Security Council for India. They cited G-20 and other multilateral platforms where the US was helping India find a place and a voice. But not the UN SC.

Export controls? "We are working on a few things," said Rhodes, refusing to be drawn out, but there were indications that a few announcements might be coming.

HT was the first to report that the US might remove controls from export of technology to India that could be used for both military and peaceful purposes. This paper had also reported that the US might remove from the list of banned entities — for trading — Indian companies ISRO and DRDO, and help India gain membership of multilateral forums such as the Nuclear Suppliers' Group.

From the US point of view the visit is going to be focussed on business. Obama's first stop is going to be India's business capital Mumbai, for a string of meetings. He will also focus on attracting investments in the US and boost exports to India to create more jobs at home.

The itinerary

November 5-6 night
Lands in Mumbai later night
November 6
Pay respect to 26/11 victims
Visit the Gandhi Museum
Business summit organised by the US-India Business Council
November 7
Visit local school with Michelle
Meet University students
Leave for Delhi
Visit Humayun's tomb
Private dinner with PM Manmohan Singh and his wife
November 8
Visit Raj Ghat
Bilateral meetings followed by joint press conference with PM
Address joint session of Parliament
State dinner
November 9
Leave for Jakarta.