Menon to meet Obama team in US Monday (Lead)

November 30th, 2008 - 11:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) It was meant to be a familiarisation trip with the incoming administration of US president-elect Barack Obama. But in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, terrorism will dominate the talks of Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon with key figures of the transition team in the US Monday. Menon leaves on a two-day visit to Washington Sunday night - India’s first high-level contact with Obama’s transition team. Menon will be in Washington for a couple of days, official sources told IANS.

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 sources said.

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

In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US is expected to top the agenda.

Obama was quick to react to the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 183 people, including six Americans and nine Israelis. Obama was also in constant touch with the Bush administration over latest updates on the audacious Mumbai terror strikes.

Obama called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday night to offer condolences and underlined his support for India in the fight against terror.

Obama, who is monitoring the situation from his home in Chicago, has praised India’s resilience, saying, “These terrorists who targeted innocent civilians will not defeat India’s great democracy, nor shake the will of a global coalition to defeat them.”

“The United States must stand with India and all nations and people who are committed to destroying terrorist networks, and defeating their hate-filled ideology,” he added.

FBI agents are reported to be on their way to India.

Obama has articulated his new approach to the war on terror that involves ending violence and instability in Afghanistan by getting Pakistan to focus on its western borders. Obama’s plan may also include an activist US role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute so that Pakistan can single-mindedly focus on militants fomenting violence in Afghanistan. This approach has caused some disquiet in India.

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.

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 reinforce this view when he meets key figures associated with the foreign policy in the Obama team.

India is optimistic about sustaining the momentum of its relations with the US that were revolutionised by a landmark nuclear deal under the George Bush presidency.

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