India, US bank on Manmohan visit to boost ties.

by - 5:27 PM

Amid a perception that India-US relationship has plateaued of late, both countries are banking on a "very successful" visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here next month to take their ties to greater heights. Manmohan Singh will be here Sep 27 for a very short working visit, but National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who was here to lay ground for the visit expressed confidence Tuesday "in terms of substance it's going to be a good visit." As of now the plans include only a "very substantive" meeting with President Barack Obama followed by a lunch at the White House, he told Indian media here after meetings with his counterpart Susan Rice, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns among others. Menon also met Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, some members of the "intelligence community" besides an exchange of views at a couple of think tanks. "When two leaders meet at that level, it has to be substantive because they both have actually taken this relationship forward in difficult times and good," he said. Manmohan Singh and Obama will have a very comprehensive agenda as they review the full spectrum of the relationship encompassing agriculture, industry and trade, science and technology, anti-terrorism, security aspects and a whole range of global issues. "It has been one of our most important relationships which has been transformed over the last few years," Menon said noting the two countries had as many as 32 separate dialogues going on on a broad range of relations. Menon also reported "steady progress" on the implementation of the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal which has stalled over India's tough nuclear liability law, but declined to say if any agreement would be signed during the Manmohan Singh visit. Describing it as a "complex project" he suggested there would be a series of agreements leading to the actual construction of a US built nuclear plant. "Right now it was down to a discussion of commercial and technical details" between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCL) as the buyer and operator and Westinghouse Electric Company as the seller of the nuclear plant, Menon said. The NSA said "quite a bit of progress" had also been made on an initiative to streamline defence acquisition procedures, but again declined to spell out details "not till it's done." "The basic idea behind this is that we move from a buyer seller situation to actually co- developing and co-producing various defence acquisitions and that could involve transfer and working together," he said. Echoing Menon's views a White House statement on his meeting with Rice said the Prime Minister's "visit will highlight India's role in regional security and stability and provide an opportunity for the two leaders to chart a course toward enhanced trade, investment, and development cooperation between the United States and India." The meeting follows Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington in 2009, and Obama's visit to India in 2010, US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden noted. As she reviewed the US-India strategic partnership with Menon, Rice took note of growing US bilateral ties with India and reaffirmed the US "commitment to further expanding and strengthening our bilateral relationship, including economic and commercial ties." "The two exchanged ideas on enhancing our security cooperation, reviewed progress on our civil nuclear and clean energy cooperation, and explored greater collaboration on climate change," Hayden said. Rice and Menon also discussed India's continued support for a stable, secure, and prosperous Afghanistan. At his meeting with Menon Tuesday in preparation of Manmohan Singh's visit, Hagel stressed "the Defence Department's "commitment to continuing progress on defence cooperation including in the areas of trade and regional security," a Pentagon statement said. Hindudtan Times

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