India hopes Obama visit will be a milestone; AfPak on agenda


New Delhi: India Tuesday hoped that US President Barack Obama’s visit will be “a milestone” and said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looked forward to discussing critical issues, including terrorism, global economic situation, convergent interests in Afghanistan and the challenge from Pakistan.

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Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said that India was not expecting any “big bang” outcome but was seeing the Nov 6-9 Obama visit as an opportunity for creating a long-term strategic framework for bilateral ties.

“It will be an opportunity to consolidate all that we have built in the past decade. We are not at a stage in our relationship for dramatic breakthroughs and big bang,” Rao told a gathering of experts here.

“But, we will see concrete and significant steps in a wide range of areas that will expand the long-term strategic framework of the relationship,” she said, adding that the visit will “give substantive content and shape to our global strategic partnership”.

Rao added that Obama’s visit is taking place against the backdrop of “significant global and regional challenges”.

“Prime minister looks forward to continuing the extremely productive dialogue on the global economic situation; the threat of terrorism that our two countries face continually; our convergent interests in Afghanistan; the challenges emanating from Pakistan, and our shared goals of sustained security, stability and prosperity in Asia.”

Rao added that the two sides will expand and intensify strategic consultations on regional and global issues, including jointly promoting development in Africa.

Rao stressed that recent months had seen an accelerated momentum in the relationship straddling diverse areas, including trade and counter-terrorism, which was clear from the way India got access to Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley, currently lodged in jail in the US.

Rao also announced that the two governments have completed the remaining steps for the implementation of their civil nuclear cooperation agreement, including conclusion of the reprocessing arrangements and procedures and completion of Part 810 assurances.

India has also enacted a Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act and has signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, she pointed out.

“We welcome the commencement of the commercial negotiations between the Indian operators and the US companies, and look forward to an early realisation of our shared goal of a robust India-US cooperation in the civil nuclear sector,” she said.

“This visit, therefore, could be an important milestone in our shared journey,” Rao said, while exhorting the experts to move beyond focusing on “on the transactional aspects of this visit.”

“All relationships entail transactions, but sustained, long term partnerships are built on certain basic principles,” she said.

Saying that the relationship had deepened and intensified, Rao said that the two sides will be “more sensitive to each other’s vital interests and always be guided by our long-term objectives and by the shared recognition the more secure we are individually, the more we will be effective partners in promoting peace, stability and security”.