India-US ties poised for take-off after Obama's game-changing trip

Washington, Feb 4: After President Barack Obama's "game changing" historic India visit, the India-US relationship is poised to move forward in an array of fields across the board, according to a senior US official.

"What we are now looking at is a whole-of-government approach," Phil Reiner, White House's senior director for South Asian Affairs, told foreign media in a round table on Obama's India trip.

India-US ties poised for take-off

"The Commerce Department, the Treasury, NASA, State Department, Defence Department, DHS (Department of Homeland Security), our intelligence community, the FBI - you name it, we're working on it together going forward, and at a senior level," he said.

During the visit, the two sides had also focused on a broad variety of strategic issues: defence, civil nuclear, regional, counter-terrorism, health issues, human rights, economics, trade and education, Reiner said.

To be sure, he said, "there will be a time in the coming months where we again encounter a tough set of issues that we need to work through, a policy crisis or a policy difference that will require senior-level engagement."

But with two summit meetings between Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in September and January they had been able "to institutionalise the elevation of this partnership and create a certain amount of momentum that really cannot be reversed."

In the coming days the two sides "would continue to focus on and need to focus on" what Reiner called "the tough issues" citing need for "further progress on things like intellectual property rights, local content requirements," as examples.

Modi's speech at the business summit was "incredibly encouraging" in this regard, he said, as the Prime Minister "spoke to IPR and other constraints for US business in India."

Two "highly successful leader-level engagements just in the past five months," he said had "really turned things towards a new beginning - a new energy, a new momentum."

Noting that things "were a bit adrift in the US-India relationship" and "the outlook was not entirely optimistic" less than a year ago, Reiner said with "Modi's electoral victory in May, President Obama very quickly reached out, and we were off to the races."

"As the first president in US history to have the honor to be chief guest and the first president to visit India twice during his tenure, we were incredibly excited to use this as a game-changing opportunity," he said.

The "breakthrough" on the civil nuclear deal, Reiner said "is that at a policy level, there are no further impediments" to operationalisation with the removal of ambiguity that was preventing the companies from moving forward.

"There will be a conference in the relative near term on how to build the insurance pool elements that will go into actually making this a reality," he said.

On the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), Reiner noted the two sides had agreed in principle to pursue co-production and co-development of four "pretty high-tech" pathfinder projects ranging from aircraft carrier technology to jet engine technology.

"At its core, what it does is it creates the opportunity for enhanced interoperability between our acquisitions processes," he said.

"So maybe you don't start with the F-35, but you start with a joint taskforce looking at jet engines. This is incredibly innovative in terms of what we're going to be able to do together," he said.

Reiner also did not agree with a reporter's suggestion that Obama's last speech referring to the need for religious tolerance in India was a kind of a parting shot.

"If you look at the entirety of the speech, the speech was about how both the United States and India have these core democratic values and principles that allow us to continue to provide for all of our people," Reiner said.

"I don't believe that this was a parting shot by any means. This was simply the president speaking to what makes us great democratic nations," he said noting Modi spoke to the same values and core principles the previous night.


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