India and the United States have chalked out an active calendar of high-level contacts in the run-up to the Foreign Minister-level strategic dialogue in June, according to official sources.
The meetings will basically cover ground on bilateral military and regional diplomatic and security issues.
In addition, India will get to know long-range U.S. intentions behind the bounty declared on Mumbai attacks strategist and Pakistani national Hafeez Saeed, when a senior U.S. official, who will be part of the June strategic dialogue, arrives here later this week to hold talks on counter-terrorism issues with Home Secretary R.K. Singh.
India has always maintained that it has submitted clinching evidence to nail Saeed but a State Department spokesperson recently said the bounty was to get proof about his activities so that he could be prosecuted and convicted.
Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Jane Lute, who was part of President Barack Obama's delegation in November 2010 and inked a cyber security agreement with India last year, will lead a team that will prepare the ground for closer ties in counter-terrorism by holding discussions on terror financing, fake currency and cyber crime.
The talks will be preceded by discussions between mid-ranking officials and followed by a meeting between Ministers P. Chidambaram and Janet Napolitano.
Before the talks on counter-terrorism that are scheduled for April 20, Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro will arrive here on Monday and over the next few days, engage with officials from the Ministries of External Affairs and Defence on pending issues.
The delegation of Mr. Shapiro, who has been a close aide of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton since the beginning of her Senator days over a decade ago, will also consist of officials from the Pentagon, said the sources.
While these discussions will be tackling the domestic context, the Indian footprint in the wider world will be taken up separately. Called the East Asia Dialogue, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell will arrive here after ascertaining the views of Japan and South Korea, two of U.S.' strongest allies in East Asia where it maintains huge military bases.
Together with U.S. Special Representative for Myanmar Derek Mitchell, he will also meet Ministry of External Affairs' officials dealing with Myanmar to share assessments about the developing political situation after democracy leader Aung Suu Kyi's party swept a limited number of parliamentary seats for which elections were held recently.
Mr. Campbell will then head for talks with Singapore's leadership which is also investing heavily in developing closer ties with India. In an unprecedented gesture, India has already allowed the space-strapped Singapore to use its territory for military exercises.
With the discussions on East Asia to be held this week, the stage would be set for the second India-Japan-U.S. trilateral dialogue next Monday in Tokyo, during which some sensitive issues in the nuclear domain would come up for clarification and discussion, said the official sources.
Despite strenuous efforts, India is still waiting for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and three other non-proliferation organisations. It had earlier sought a “package approach,” meaning simultaneous entry into all the four, but has dropped the demand for a phased approach in which the entry into the NSG is of prime importance.
From New Delhi's point of view, both Japan and the U.S. have been proactive in reducing the export control list that entailed long drawn-out procedures but very little actual business has been conducted.
In the nuclear arena, although India has begun discussions with Westinghouse, much ground remains to be covered in ensuring that it keeps its promise of setting up a dozen U.S. electricity generating reactors.
The India-Japan civil nuclear agreement also remains in limbo, especially after the Fukushima incident. The composition of the Indian delegation — diplomats handling the Americas, East Asia and Disarmament desks — suggests that most bilateral and macro issues will also be discussed in the interaction.
This latest round of high-level interactions will ensure more subjects will be added to the checklist when S.M. Krishna and Ms. Clinton meet in Washington.
A few days ago, senior U.S. officials met Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai for a broad brush sharing of views. Some issues will be dealt in greater detail by Mr. Campbell and Mr. Shapiro, with preparatory work having been done in meetings of the Defence Policy Group, the Joint Technical Group in Defence besides visits by the Deputy NSA, the NSA and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake.