Leaders of India and the US will work to consolidate the progress made in bilateral cooperation across various sectors such as economy, energy, environment, defence and security, and to intensify cooperation for the future, says a top government official.
Briefing the media ahead of Prime minister Narendra Modi’s five-nation tour starting June 4, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said, “The prime minister will visit Washington on June 7-8 during the course of which he will meet US President Barack Obama and address a joint meeting of the US Congress.” The address will be followed by a lunch with Speaker Paul Ryan, which will be attended by Vice President Joe Biden and several Cabinet secretaries.
Modi is expected to concentrate on Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) membership issue and the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). The US push on these two points is very significant for India, particularly the NSG membership case, since it will come up for discussion at the NSG Plenary on June 9. Washington has recently come out clearly in support of India’s claim to membership in the NSG, rejecting doubts and questions raised by China on the issue.
The DTTI agreement incorporates for the first time a provision to co-produce weapons in India, and is important for both sides as it will ensure that government’s flagship initiative ‘Make In India’ is made an integral part of it.
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal had recently told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on India, “We are hopeful that progress would be made on some of the foundational agreements including the logistics agreement that might be concluded prior to the US visit of Prime Minister and we are looking to see if there are other things that we can take on board.” She was responding to questions on possibility of signing any security agreements between India and the US during the Prime Minister’s visit.
Sharing her views with FE, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Head, Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative ORF, says, “With the Obama Administration in office only for few more months, the visit cannot be hugely substantive. Nevertheless, Prime minister’s visit is important on two counts: will President Obama give the final big political push for NSG membership is an important question. Because the political investment that the Obama presidency makes in terms of both pushing India’s case with some of the problematic countries such as The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and China is significant.”
A second possible item on the agenda is the DTTI – the fact that India and the US talk about defence trade and technology collaboration itself is a big deal and shows the maturity of the relationship.
“Nevertheless, it is important to see if the two can conclude some of the pending deals. A somewhat connected issue is the three defence foundational agreements – we are in principle agreement to sign the LSA (LEMOA) which is expected to be inked during a later trip of the minister,” added Rajagopalan.
Joint production of critical platforms for the Indian armed forces under DTTI is still far away as the two countries have never co-produced any weapon system nor have they done any joint weapon development.