Defence, Counter-terrorism Key Focus of India-US Strategic Dialogue

By Arun Kumar

Washington, June 1 (IANS) India and the United States begin their first strategic dialogue Wednesday with both sides keen to move beyond symbolism to concretise cooperation in areas ranging from energy, agriculture, science and technology and education to defence and counter-terrorism.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who would lead the inaugural ministerial level dialogue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would outline his vision of India-US relationship transformed by the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal in an address at the India Business Council (USIBC) Wednesday.

Krishna's address at the 35th anniversary meeting of the USIBC, representing some 300 US companies investing in India, will focus on the theme of emerging opportunities in India-US cooperation in the field of innovation and knowledge industries, which is one of the sunrise areas of engagement between the two countries.

Keen to counter a public perception that President Barack Obama is not as warm towards India as his predecessor George Bush was, he plans to attend a reception for Krishna hosted by Clinton after chairing their strategic dialogue Thursday.

The rare gesture of attending a reception for a visiting minister is clearly intended to counter suggestions that India-US relations have slipped from their glory days under Bush who had pushed hard to make the nuclear deal a reality.

"The Obama administration attaches great importance to our relations with India," US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake asserted ahead of the dialogue refuting a suggestion that US ties with New Delhi have taken a backseat with Obama focusing his attention on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"As President Obama himself has said, this will be one of our signature partnerships in the 21st century," Blake said pointing to the fact that Obama had invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the first state visit of his administration last November "to reaffirm the importance that we attach to our relations with India".

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary and her US counterpart Undersecretary for Political affairs Bill Burns will meet at the State Department Wednesday for the foreign policy dialogue ahead of the ministerial level session led by Krishna and Clinton Thursday.

Rao will also meet Tuesday with Eric Hirschhorn, Under Secretary for Industry and Security at the US Department of Commerce to discuss issues relating to liberalisation of exports of dual use high technology items.

The India US High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) that Rao and Hirschhorn chair, had at their last meeting here in March identified specific barriers to such exports.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal would meet his counterpart US Education Secretary Arne Duncan Wednesday and will also address USIBC summit the same day focusing on the opportunities that bilateral engagement in the field of Education offers for both countries.

Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission Montek Singh, who is the co-chair of the Energy Dialogue, Agriculture Dialogue, CEO Forum and the Economic Dialogue would separately meet Steven Chu, Secretary, US Department of Energy; Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Relations; and Lawrence Summers, Director, National Economic Council.

At the June 3 strategic dialogue, Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan will speak on the role of scientific research and innovation in building up knowledge societies and opportunities for India-US cooperation.

He will also meet with John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Assistant to the US President for Science and Technology and interact with senior scientists and technologists of Indian origin.



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