It is true that India is on the first leg of his 9-day tour begining from November 6 and his three-day visit to India will be the longest single foreign visit of his presidency so far.
But the importance of his visit to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan cannot be underscored. Obamas India visit needs to be viewed in wider Asian context. Indonesia is the largest Muslim-populated country and Obama would like send his message to the Muslim world by his presence there. Obama would also attend G-20 meeting of major economies in Seoul and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Yokohama.
During this entourage, the US President is likely to hold one-on-one meetings with the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Chinese President, Hu Jintao.
The recent rise of the Republicans and the decline in the popularity of the Democrats and the rising unemployment and skrinkage of the economy in the US may force Obama to seek greater market access for American goods and services. The Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs in the US Administration, Mike Froman has reportedly said that the US views India as an emerging economy and a large potential market of 1.2 billion people and the Obama Administration would ensure that our exports have an opportunity to penetrate that market and support jobs back here.
Obama has indicated his priority in improving bilateral trade and investment relations with India. Before his official engagements he is slated to address the US-India Business Council in Mumbai on November 6 and on November 8 he alongwith the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh would address the India-US CEO Forum.
Over the years, India-US relationship has entered a matured stage and a dramatic breakthrough or a big bang is not expected from Obamas visit. Rather there would caution on both sides to work on shared values and taking care of each others sensitivities. At this stage India is not likely to get support from the US for its candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC).
The US will also not lift the ban on export of dual-use technology and outsourcing. But India would take up the issue and urge US to come to a point of convergence. However, Indias National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon says that the breadth of India-US relations extends to all areas of human endeavour, to bilateral and regional issues and the big picture is often not appreciated as we get caught in the transactional issues like outsourcing.
The former US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott says : US companies that have done strategic outsourcing are actually doing well, creating jobs and helping the US economy.
Regarding counter-terrorism, both sides are likely to deal with specific issues like exchange of information, prevention and management, extradition. Both the countries have earlier signed an agreement on counter terrorism.
In the matters of defence purchases, India has completed some procedures and is awaiting reponse from the US.
Both India and the US 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 CSC. The commencement of the commercial negotiations between the Indian operators and the US companies is awaited. The US companies are, however, reluctant at some provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act.
India would seek cooperation for setting up Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership. There will also be an agreement for development of clean energy.
Some cooperation in the space technology leading to a joint launch of programmes is expected. There will also be some agreements on science and technology cooperation
India and US have already signed a knowledge initiative in agriculture. This time a MoU is likely to be signed for weather and crop forecasting technology.
In the health sector, agreements are likely to be signed for setting up of a Regional Diseases Detection Centre and for collaboration with the National Health Centre of US. An agreement is also likely to be signed for jointly hosting an education summit.
After summit meeting with the Indian Prime Minister on November 8, Obama will address the India Parliament and he would leave for Indonesia on November 9.
While in Jakarta, Obama may announce increased US educational assistance to Indonesia as well as a substantial five-year programme to combat climate change. Obama would conclude his Asian tour with his visit to South Korea and Japan giving a message to the Asian nations