Menon to meet Obama team next week

November 25th, 2008 - 9:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) India will make its first high-level contact with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama when Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon goes to the US next week to meet key figures of the transition team. Menon is likely to meet influential figures in the transition team that includes Wendy Sherman, the co-chair of the state department’s Agency Review Team, which is tasked with preparing policy and personnel for the soon-to-be-named secretaries.

He is also expected to meet Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, who served as Washington’s chief interlocutor during the last lap of the nuclear deal, official source said.

Burns is likely to acquire an important position in the foreign policy establishment in the Obama presidency.

India is optimistic about sustaining the momentum of its relations with the US that were revolutionized by a landmark nuclear deal under the George Bush presidency. Obama has made it clear that he will not re-open the nuclear deal, but has underlined at the same time his commitment to revamping the non-proliferation architecture that could include a ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In his meetings with Obama’s transition team, Menon is expected to focus on a range of issues, including nuclear trade, terrorism and climate change, that could hold the key to the evolution of the India-US relations in the future. In an interview ahead of his election as the 44th president of the US, Obama had indicated his desire to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir that caused much unease in New Delhi.

Obama also articulated his new approach to the war on terror and continuing instability in Afghanistan that could involve a proactive involvement of Pakistan and a likely US role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

India has made it clear many a time that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that is being discussed by India and Pakistan in the framework of the composite dialogue and has objected to any perceived third-party intervention. Menon is likely to reiterate this view when he meets key figures associated with the foreign policy in the Obama team.

It will also be Menon’s effort to encourage the US to consult India on key regional issues. The consultations on regional issues had become part of practice under the Bush presidency. When Bush met Manmohan in Washington September 25, he made it a point to thank the Indian prime minister for his valuable inputs on the region that included the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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