Energy security, renewable energy, defence trade, and the setting up of a study group for having a preferential trade agreement, will top the agenda when US President Barack Obama visits India next week.
Obama, who is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bilateral talks on January 25, is also expected seek clarity from India on intellectual property rights, and land acqusition and labour laws.
The US president will be accompanied by a high-level official delegation and CEOs of big US defence and other companies. “US companies, especially defence giants, are not keen on setting up manufacturing bases in India unless they dont get clarity on these issues, particularly IPR and land acqusition,” a source in the government told fe. “Though the ordinance relating to land acquisition has been promulgated, US companies are concerned about long-term laws.”
Civil nuclear agreement, too, will be discussed. India could push the US to support its bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the two countries are expected to renew their 10-year defence framework pact during the visit. The new framework will replace the existing agreement signed in June 2005. Officials on both sides have confirmed that the agreement is “all but done” and awaits a final clearance.
The new defence framework will outline a series of exchanges between Indian and US officials, including regular meetings between service and non-service defence personnel, the updated ‘Defence Trade and Technological Initiative’, upgraded military and naval exercises, as well as ‘knowledge partnerships’ between national defence universities of both countries.
Announcements relating to India acquiring Boeing’s Chinook and Apache helicopters, valued at $2.5 billion and which could ease strained ties between New Delhi and Washington, will be made at the end of talks.
Also, an agreement relating to General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System for the Indian Navy is to be announced. The system’s flexible architecture allows for integration into a range of platforms with differing catapult configurations, enabling the launch and recovery of a wide variety of aircraft, including unmanned aerial vehicles, to enhance situational awareness. It also requires fewer personnel..
“The Defence Acquisition Council last year headed by the then defence minister, Arun Jaitley, had cleared the last hurdle for signing the Apache and Chinook contract,” said defence ministry officials.
Today, the Indian Air Force flies the Lockheed C-130J and the Boeing C-17 as transport aircraft and the Indian Navy has P-8i planes monitoring the Arabian Sea for hostile activities. Soon, Apache and Chinook helicopters will be part of India’s military arsenal.
While some major trade initiatives around nuclear energy have not moved at all since then, bilateral trade between the two countries has risen rapidly since and is touching $100 billion now.
US companies like IBM and HP employ more than 100,000 Indians each; while dozens of large American companies maintain their largest overseas R&D centers in India; defence majors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and many others sell billions of dollars of equipment a year to India. Indian investors have investments in American icons, such as New York’s Pierre Hotel, and Hollywood’s Dreamworks Studios, as well as in iron ore mining in Minnesota and oil fracking in Appalachia. Indian Americans lead hallowed American institutions such as the Harvard Business School and PepsiCo.