Washington, Sep 21: US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will chart a course towards enhanced economic ties during their meeting here Friday, the White House says.
The third meeting between the two leaders in four years “will highlight India’s role in regional security and stability,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters accompanying Obama on a visit to Kansas City, Missouri, Friday.
It would also “provide an opportunity for the two leaders to chart a course towards enhanced trade, investment, and development cooperation between the United States and India,” he said.
Earnest recalled Friday’s “bilateral meeting” at the White House “follows the prime minister’s visit to Washington in 2009 and the president’s visit to India in 2010″ but gave no details of their agenda.
The two leaders have also met several times on the sidelines of international conferences and share a personal rapport.
It would be Manmohan Singh’s sixth summit meeting with a US president starting with George W. Bush in July 2005 that led to the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal described in India as a “pillar of our strategic partnership,” and a symbol of our transformed relationship.”
Picking up from Bush, President Obama who has described India-US relationship as one of the “defining partnerships of the 21st century” chose to invite Manmohan Singh for his presidency’s first state dinner in November 2009.
Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry visited India in 2013 to set the stage for Manmohan Singh’s working visit, also expected to focus on how to operationalise the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal, enhance defence cooperation and Afghanistan.
Signed in 2008, the nuclear deal has been stalled over US suppliers’ balking over India’s tough 2010 nuclear liability law under which a nuclear plant operator can also sue a supplier for additional liability in case of an accident.
The two sides will also explore ways of expanding defence ties “beyond a buyer-seller relationship to a joint partnership in design, development and production of defence material”.
As US Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter who after a visit to India this week in preparation of Manmohan Singh’s visit put it: “They (India) don’t want to just buy our stuff.”
“They want to build our stuff with us and they want to develop new things with us, and they want to do research with us.”
Meanwhile, a key Obama aide has ruled out a meeting between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the US president on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.
Obama had a “good set of discussions” on the phone with Sharif when the US president called him May 15 after the latter’s parliamentary electoral victory May 11, White House deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting Ben Rhodes said Friday.
“We do expect that we’d like to have a formal meeting with the prime minister of Pakistan in the near future. So it’s a matter of making sure that we can find an appropriate time for both leaders to come together,” he said.
The State Department which has been “encouraging” India and Pakistan to hold a dialogue declined comment on a likely meeting between Manmohan Singh and Sharif over the next weekend.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)