Top US diplomat hints at agenda for Obama's visit to India

Washington, Jan 22: Describing the India visit of President Barack Obama as a "seminal moment" for bilateral ties, a senior White House official has said that America wanted to turn the "extraordinary" potential of their relationship into concrete benefits for the people of the two countries.

Days ahead of the trip, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that energy policy and climate change will rank as top agenda items as US negotiators lay the groundwork for an international climate agreement ahead of a December UN summit in Paris.

Obama and Modi

He also identified economy, defense and regional and global issues as key matters of the discussion between the two leaders when they meet later this week.

Obama will be travelling this Saturday to New Delhi and take his place next to India's leaders on January 26 to witness the pageantry of Republic Day celebrations.

"As the world's two largest democracies, there's extraordinary potential in this relationship. We want to turn this potential into concrete benefits for our people. And so this trip comes at a time when we have a growing agenda with India," Rhodes told reporters during a conference call.

"Our goal is to leave this relationship in a fundamentally different place than it was when President Obama took office, and when Prime Minister Modi assumed charge. We believe that we have a unique moment of opportunity to have that type of breakthrough," he said.

Rhodes said a lot of what the president wanted to get done over the course of the next two years will benefit greatly from closer cooperation with India.

He noted that India has been a top foreign policy priority for the Obama Administration and US-India cooperation can significantly advance American interests in terms of promoting economic ties and increased exports to a growing market.

"That's based on our belief that our Asia-Pacific policy benefits from closer ties with India, and it's also based on our cooperation on a broad range of global issues," he said.

Dwelling on the key agendas for Modi-Obama talks, Rhodes said, "We are looking to increase our cooperation in pursuit of developing clean energy, but also pursuing a successful and ambitious round of climate negotiations this year, leading in to Paris."

In terms of trade and investment, we will be looking at how we can work through a range of impediments to enhance US-India commercial ties.

"We always advocate for greater US exports to India...We believe there's enormous potential in this relationship, even as it already supports a significant amount of economic growth and job creation in both the countries. So, we'll work through a range of trade and investment-related issues on the agenda," Rhodes said.

He said that US has maintained an important defense relationship with India and the two nations cooperate on counter-terrorism issues.

"The two leaders will have an opportunity to review these issues together," he said.

Rhodes said engagement of countries like India in achieving stability and prosperity in Afghanistan will be essential.

"Iran would be another key area of discussion between the two countries," he said adding that India has been an important element of the international effort with respect to Iran.

"We will be able to discuss the status of the Iran nuclear negotiations. India has cooperated with us in the enforcement of our sanctions regime, which continues to put a significant amount of pressure on the Iranian government and economy," he said.

Rhodes said the two leaders will discuss the issues concerning the Asia-Pacific and how the two countries could enhance their cooperation in the "critical" region.


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