It’s G-20 yes; but what about MMS and POTUS meet

April 1st, 2009 - 12:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh By Smita Prakash

London, Apr.1 (ANI): If there is one photo opportunity that the India media is waiting for, it is the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (MMS) and the President of the United States (POTUS) Barack Obama on April 2 at the Excel Centre here on the sidelines of the second Group of Twenty Summit (G-20).

The enduring image of former US President George Bush with his hands on Dr.Singh’s shoulders and the latter giving his widest of smiles ever at the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007 is certainly on everybody’s minds. What will be the body language between both leaders one wonders.

Indian officials accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit to London say that the two heads of government will not be alone during their meeting. They will be accompanied by their aides. In the room will be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James L. Jones and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. There will be six of them.

The Indian Prime Miinister will be accompanied by Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Montek Singh Aluwalia, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon. According to one official, both will “have their best teams present.”

The meeting will be high on symbolism, whereas, the content might not be much given the nature of the platform and the paucity of time.

That President Obama will discuss steps taken by India in tackling the current economic crisis is a given. But crucial will be the signals that will emnate from the top … does the Obama administration want to revisit the nuclear deal with India one way or the other. So far, there has been no political interaction between India and the US after the new administration has taken over in Washington, but that probably has less to do with apathy and more to do with the fact that Obama has inherited an economy that is in shambles and has that to sort out first.

Indian officials have expressed confidence that the 123 deal is on track and at the speed that is expected, but are aware that Obama fashioned himself as a non-proliferation messiah during the long campaign months. Now, that he is in office, will he shed that baggage, time will tell.

The new term to define the US-India relationship is quite a tongue twister. “true strategic stand-alone US-India partnership”. Coined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the term is now being bandied around in the Indian Foreign Ministry. The positive spin is that it rids India of the shackles of being linked to Pakistan. That parity is over for good it seems. The newly termed AfPak policy kind of seals it. And yet, India is part of what the US identifies as the ‘contact group’ on AfPak.

Indian officials see a positive in that as they feel that any attempt to involve regional players in solving the Afghanistan- Pakistan problem is a step in the right direction. What this contact group is expected to do besides coming up with suggestions is anybody’s guess. The policy is still at a formulation stage and India is still not appearing over anxious. Involving India in this “is part of a solution” says an Indian official.

Another issue that many hope will feature at the high level talks is on H-1 B visas and outsourcing - two other pinpricks from the Obama point of view. Again, officials say this issue might have to wait for another day, as it is economy, economy, economy all the way for the US President. (ANI)

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