India, US Plan Several High-level Visits Ahead of April Dialogue

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Feb 2 (IANS) India and the US plan to exchange a series of high level visits ahead of the April round of their strategic dialogue in New Delhi to keep up the momentum built during President Barack Obama's India visit.

The dialogue headed by Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will include several cabinet ministers with a separate Department of Homeland Security dialogue focusing on counter-terrorism, according to diplomatic sources.

US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security, Jane Holl Lute was in New Delhi last month in preparation of an April visit by Secretary, Janet Napolitano for the extended dialogue to include Homeland Security.

As part of the preparatory visits, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao would be in Washington Feb 13-15 close on the heels of last week's visit of National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who met Obama his National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Clinton and Under Secretary of State Bill Burns.

The Menon visit essentially focused on the "bilateral agenda over the coming year, including the implementation of initiatives launched during the Summit, as well as building new platforms for collaboration that fulfil the promise of our global strategic partnership," as the White House put it.

Noting the easing of US export controls on Indian defence and space organisations as promised by Obama, sources said besides a review of bilateral ties the Rao visit would draw a road map to India's membership in the four major international non-proliferation groupings - Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar, and the Australia Group.

Before that the US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke would be in India Feb 6-11 leading 24 US businesses on a high-tech trade mission focusing on advanced industrial sectors, civil-nuclear trade, defence and security, civil aviation, and information and communication technologies.

Among the companies on the US delegation visiting Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are aerospace giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin and other defence and nuclear power majors.

Also planned is a meeting of the defence policy group in Washington March 3-4. The US air chief is visiting India Feb 2-6 and Indian army chief would be in US Mar 7-13.

The two-way India-US trade after a dip from $43.38 billion in 2008 to $37.6 billion in 2009 due to lack of demand has again picked up and reached $45.11 billion in January-November 2010, a whopping 30.79 percent gain. For the first time, trade is expected to cross $50 billion for the full year.


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