‘Obama attaches high priority to stronger ties with India’

November 14th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 14 (IANS) President-elect Barack Obama attaches high priority to the further strengthening of relations between India and the US, his special envoy to the G-20 Summit has told a key aide of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.Obama’s views on relationship with India were conveyed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright during a meeting Thursday with Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, and the Indian ’sherpa’ for the G-20 Summit.

In the G-20 summit format, while top leaders give a political direction to the deliberations, it’s their sherpas who carry the heavy load of negotiations leading up to agreed formulations.

Ahluwalia, with whom Manmohan Singh shares a strong professional and personal rapport, was picked up by the prime minister for this key role for his economic expertise.

Ahluwalia accompanied by the Indian Ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, met Albright and Republican Congressman Jim Leach, who have been nominated by Obama to meet foreign delegations at the summit to open communication between the next US administration and the visiting world leaders.

Ahluwalia had an exchange of views with the Obama team on issues related to the current international economic and financial crisis, the Summit, and also bilateral relations, an Indian embassy official said.

“Secretary Albright conveyed that the President-elect attached high priority to the further strengthening of relations between India and the US,” he said.

Obama, who takes office Jan 20, has said that since a country can only have one president at a time, he would not take part in the summit hosted by Bush or meet foreign leaders on the sidelines of the meeting.

Albright served as secretary of state and US ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton. Leach, a moderate Republican, was a congressman from Iowa for 30 years, where he served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Obama has named the bipartisan team as the “summit is an important opportunity to hear from the leaders of many of the world’s largest economies,” according to Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said.

Ahluwalia, accompanied by Sen, also had a bilateral meeting with his US counterpart Dan Price, assistant to the president for international economic affairs, who is President George W. Bush’s sherpa at the summit.

“The discussions focused on the issues before the Summit,” an Indian official said.

Separately, Department of Economic Affairs Secretary Ashok Chawla participated in the meeting of the Finance Deputies involved in preparing the summit outcome.

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