White House prepares for first state visit by Manmohan Singh

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Washington, Nov.21 (ANI): The Obama White House is preparing for its first full state visit when US President Barack Obama will host the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Singh's three-day state visit starting November 23 (Monday) is being seen in New Delhi as Obama's intention of sustaining a relationship that deepened under his predecessor George W. Bush.

Former US President Bill Clinton started Washington's efforts to build ties with India nearly two decades ago. These ties were furthered under the Bush administration, when it discussed and inked a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with India between July 2005 and March 2008.

For Obama to come up with something comparable will be difficult, claims Lisa Curtis, a South Asian expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"I think the civil nuclear deal was sort of a once in a generation agreement and I doubt the Obama administration will have a similar kind of initiative, that was groundbreaking, but I do think it is important that President Obama signal that he intends to move that agreement forward," a foreign news agency quoted her, as saying.

An Indian daily report says Singh will be accorded a Guard of Honour on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. This honour is seen as a reflection of the Obama presidency's commitment to India.

His official engagements will begin on Monday with an address to captains of industry at an event jointly organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-India Business Council. He will then deliver a lecture, jointly organized by the Council of Foreign Relations, a conservative think tank, and the Woodrow Wilson Centre. Several top American CEOs are expected to attend the event.

The Prime Minister will thereafter meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

On Tuesday, delegation-level talks between Dr. Singh and President Obama will be followed by a joint media interaction. This will be followed by an interaction with CEOs after which Dr. Singh will leave for a lunch, hosted by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the State Department.

On Tuesday evening, President Obama will host both Dr. Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at an official banquet, which will also include an entertainment program. Senior U.S. administration officials, including the Secretaries of Defence, Treasury and Environment will call on the Prime Minister the next day.

Singh and Obama are expected to hold talks on issues ranging from curbing carbon emissions - where the two sides are poles apart - to multi-billion dollar defence contracts and speeding up the completion of a landmark civilian nuclear deal formally signed last year.

The success of the trip will be measured by whether both leaders manage to dispel any doubts about Washington's commitment to New Delhi in the South Asian region where it rivals China and Pakistan - both seen as U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Former Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who is now an academic with Harvard University, is of the view that President Obama will "need to put his stamp on this relationship".

"He needs to signal to the India, that despite the fact that he has been paying attention to other problems recently, India is still important the US," he added.

As far as U.S. strategy for Afghanistan is concerned, Burns says: "The US does not want to choose between Pakistan and India, but sometimes Indians and Pakistanis want us to chose."

Analysts see this first State visit as something of a test for Obama, who will hope to build on the work of his predecessors, while also tackling some of the thorny issues of the relationship, including trade as well as climate change. (ANI)

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