Even as the Devyani Khobragade affair moves to court, India and the United States are working to move defence and economic relationships forward. Next month will see a series of nuts and bolts meetings between Indian and US officials, designed to get bilateral relations out of their present rut.
On the defence front, Indian and US army, navy expert steering groups will chart out bilateral military exercises in the second half of this year. Among the strategically most noteworthy will be the Malabar Exercise and the trilateral naval exercise with Japan. The meetings will take place in Delhi, between February 6 and 9.
Indian Lt Gen Anil Chait, chief of the integrated staff representing the three services, will go to the US in February to study the US National Defence University.
Recognising that fiscal austerity has put on hold many Indian defence buys, the US has informally conveyed that a simple letter of intent will be enough for it to begin paperwork for three strategically important weapon systems: the M777 howitzer, Javelin anti-tank missile and the next batch of C-17 military transport aircraft. Reassured by New Delhi’s clearance of two major defence purchases during the height of the Khobragade crisis, one of the largest contingent of US defence firms will be at the DefExpo in New Delhi.
On the economic front, there will be two separate dialogues, seeking to address issues bedeviling bilateral trade and investment. The first is a financial regulatory dialogue between officials of central banks, finance ministries, to be held in Mumbai.
The second is an eight-day visit by the commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg. Her focus will be to seek ways to resolve safety standards problems that have led to Ranbaxy and Wockhardt pharmaceutical plants being banned from exporting to the US.