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Obama meets PM, stage set for talks
New Delhi/MUMBAI, Nov 7 (IANS):
Published on 8 Nov. 2010 12:25 AM IST
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US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in New Delhi Sunday afternoon on the second leg of their four-day India visit to a warm reception by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur.
It’s not often that the prime minister deviates from protocol to receive visiting foreign leaders at the airport, but Manmohan Singh decided to personally welcome Obama given his special admiration for the man. In the last six years, he had done this in 2006 only for then US president George Bush with whom he struck a landmark nuclear deal and Saudi monarch King Abdullah.
Obama gave the prime minister a warm hug as he alighted. Michelle Obama, dressed in a powder blue ensemble, followed with a peck on the cheek for Manmohan Singh. Obama also gave a peck to Gursharan Kaur.
Much to the disappointment of many in India, Obama is, however, unlikely to announce explicit and unequivocal support for New Delhi’s claim for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council. At best, he is expected to announce a bigger role for India in the UN and in the international system.
“He will come closer to supporting India for a permanent seat, but will stop short of declaring it explicitly,” Lalit Mansingh, India’s former ambassador to the US, told IANS.
On high tech exports, there will be a positive movement, with Indian officials expecting the US to express its intention to reform the export control laws in the India-US joint statement that is expected after the Obama-Manmohan Singh talks.
In an interaction with business honchos in Mumbai, Obama has already signalled that he is serious about removing “unwanted restrictions” that stand in the way of trade between the two countries.
The removal of three Indian entities on the US export black list, including the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Limited, is likely to be announced. However, Washington will not go the whole hog and discussions are likely to continue for easing restrictions on facilities related to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
The US decision to support India for full membership of the top four nuclear clubs, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australian Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement is expected to be reflected in the joint statement, informed sources said.
This should cheer India’s strategic establishment that has battled for years for the end of technology denial regimes targeted against New Delhi.
As the business of Obama’s India mission is business and outsourcing continuing to be a sore issue, there would be a reference to both countries expressing their commitment to lowering barriers to trade and investment and increased cooperation on global economic issues in global fora like the G20.
On regional and global issues, sources revealed that India is expecting a reference to terror groups active in the region in the joint statement and India and the US joining hands to combat terrorism, which Obama had flagged off in his speech before 26/11 victims in Mumbai Saturday.
There could be a reference to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based terror group which was earlier focused on India and is said to be the principal architect of the Mumbai carnage, but which has now expanded the scope of its jihad to include the US and the West, sources said.
The formulation of Pakistan in the joint statement is still being debated between officials of the two sides. But what is certain is a forceful reiteration of the strengthening of counter-terror cooperation and the US working with India to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror to justice.
The joint statement would acknowledge India’s role in Afghanistan and some proposals for joint work on developmental projects in that conflict-battered country.
There will be a message for Beijing also, which is closely watching Obama’s visit to India. Much to the chagrin of Beijing, there will be a reference to India’s bigger role in East Asia, which Beijing is prone to see as its backyard, and collaboration in developmental projects in Africa where the Chinese surge has evoked anxieties about resource exploitation.
Pakistan slow in fighting terror, says Obama
While India has been anxious ever since his statement on the Mumbai terror attacks yesterday evaded the role of Pakistan, it took a Mumbai girl to force US President Barack Obama to utter the P-word.
Progress in fighting terrorism in Pakistan is not as quick as we like to see, Obama said today during his interaction with students at St Xavier’s College here.
I am absolutely convinced that the country that has the biggest stake in Pakistan’s success is India, Obama said.
Pakistan slow in fighting terror, says Obama
Obama hoped that in time, there is more trust between India and Pakistan and dialogue on less controversial issues.
Obama said India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side. He said the US can be a partner but cannot impose this process.
India and Pakistan have to arrive at an understanding, said Obama. He also said a stable Afghanistan is achievable.
On a pointed question on his thoughts on jihad, Obama said one of the challenges we face is how to isolate those who have distorted notions of Islam to justify violence.
The notion that violence is the way to mediate differences must be rejected, Obama said.
He said an overwhelming majority of people following Islam want peace, justice, fairness and tolerance. All religions teach one to treat others with respect and dignity, Obama said.
The students perhaps took a cue from First Lady Michelle Obama’s statement exhorting them to ask tough questions to her husband and keep him on his toes.

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