Washington, Nov 22: A top Indian-American diplomat would travel to India next week to lay the ground work for the historic visit of US President Barack Obama in January who would be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
"Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal will travel to New Delhi, India, for internal consultations and bilateral meetings," the State Department said on Friday.
The State Department's decision came after White House announced that "at the invitation of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, the President will travel to India in January 2015 to participate in the Indian Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi as the chief guest."
During her travel from November 23 to December 5, Biswal would also be travelling to Kathmandu to represent the US as an observer state at the 18th annual South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit, which would be attended by heads of State of all the SAARC countries, including Prime Minister Modi.
"The summit will focus on deepening regional economic connectivity and expanding South Asia's role in the global economy. While in Kathmandu, she will meet with Nepali political leaders, civil society activists and business leaders," the State Department said in a statement.
Following Nepal, Biswal will travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to participate in meetings with Bangladeshi government officials, civil society and labour group leaders and members of the business community.
From there, she will travel to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for the Annual Bilateral Consultations and discuss with the government of Uzbekistan the full range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest.
"Finally Biswal will travel to Basel, Switzerland to participate in the OSCE Ministerial. She will hold meetings with senior leaders from the OSCE and Central Asian nations," the State Department said.
The India trip assumes significance given that Obama would be travelling to India at a time, when the President normally gives his annual State of the Union Address to the Congress. Also, the White House normally does not announce President's travel schedule two months in advance.