By Ranjana Narayan
India-US ties are set to move to the transformative level during President Barack Obama’s India visit later this week, building also on the personal rapport developed between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with both sides keen to have promising outcomes from the talks on a range of issues, including defence, energy, education and economic cooperation.
Obama, chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade, has described Modi as a “man of action”.
The two leaders have met thrice already in the recent past – in Washington during the bilateral in September last year, in Myanmar during the East Asia Summit and in Brisbane during the G20 in November. But the Jan 25 bilateral would be an “important summit” meeting in that it would seek to give a more concrete shape to many of the agreed points of the joint statement issued last year in Washington.
The summit would see a “more broader partnership and more energized” ties between the two sides.
In the field of defence, both sides are set to ink a new 10-year defence framework agreement that would take defence cooperation to a higher level.
Talks on developing the next generation aircraft carrier are likely to gain steam as well as on coproduction of defence equipment.
The US is keen to replicate in part the kind of defence cooperation that India and Russia share, especially on the lines of the BrahMos missiles that is jointly developed by the two countries.
The US is also to cooperate with a planned National Defence University to be set up by India.
The agreement for US involvement the Smart Cities project for Ajmer, Allahabad and Vishakhapatnam is also to get a push during the talks.
Talks have been going on between relevant authorities to take forward the project over the past few months. It would see the US participating in the three cities as knowledge partner in the areas of traffic management, solid waste management, garbage disposal, recycling waste water and in water storage, said sources.
Economic ties are also set to get a major leg up.
The fact that the US government and business houses view the Modi government as business-friendly is evident from the fact that an 80-member team from the US with 12 CEOs attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in Gandhinagar, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry had met Modi during the sidelines of the Vibrant Gujarat for talks on the agenda for Obama’s visit. The US Secretary of State later told reporters that both sides would strive to make progress on the four main issues of climate change, defence, civil nuclear cooperation and economic partnership.
The stalled civil nuclear deal is also expected to get a major push with the contact group from both sides having held two rounds of talks so far. Issues over India’s liability laws are expected to be ironed over.
The US is hoping to build on the Modi government’s bold policy initiatives like Make in India, Smart Cities, Skilling India and renewable energy.
After Modi’s assurance to foreign companies to ensure ease in doing business in India by cutting away red tape, more investments have been flowing into India from the US.
More concrete movement on the Modi government’s Digital India initiative as well as on India’s proposal to establish the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN, or Knowledge) would be seen during the summit.
As part of cooperation under GIAN, which is part of the joint statement, India is to invite and host up to 1,000 American academics each year to teach in centrally-recognized Indian Universities, at their convenience. While the American teachers are to be reimbursed by their parent universities, India would be looking after their stay in the country and also pay a token amount.
The process of identifying the universities on both sides is underway.
The talks would also see forward movement to cooperation in the health sector, especially in developing affordable vaccines for dengue, malaria, and tuberculosis and also in cancer research.
Obama is the first US president to visit India twice during his tenure and the first to attend the Republic Day parade as chief guest.