Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama have set “a robust agenda” for the next six months to keep the two nations actively engaged during elections in India and lay the foundation for bilateral ties to take off under a new government in New Delhi.
During their White House meeting on September 27, 2013 which lasted over three hours, Mr. Obama and Dr. Singh agreed that the relationship between the two countries — described by the U.S. President as the most significant one for the 21st century — is too important to keep adrift for a period of six months as India enters a crucial election phase.
As such Mr. Obama and Dr. Singh laid out a robust agenda of active engagement for the next six months and prepared groundwork for what the sources familiar with the talks described as “take off” for the new Indian government formed after the general election before May 2014.
As part of this active engagement, newly-appointed Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal is soon expected to visit New Delhi which would be preceded by her trip to Tokyo for a trilateral U.S.-India-Japan talks.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh is also scheduled to visit Washington for a series of high-level meetings before the end of the year.
In January, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to visit India and the trip is expected to pave the way for a new phase in India-U.S. energy cooperation while planning is in works for an early visit of the new Homeland Security Secretary.
The Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh is also expected to visit the U.S. before the end of this year which informed sources said would make it the first time that heads of all the three Indian armed forces would be visiting the U.S. the same year.
Ground work is also being laid out for a visit of U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to India.
It is only a question of when Mr. Hagel would go to India, highly placed sources told PTI, adding that defence and energy sectors are now being billed as the “next nuclear deal moment” for the India-U.S. relationship.
A senior administration official, when asked that the India-U.S. relationship has “entered into a period of inactivity” as India heads towards general election in the next few months, said “I would not say that at all”.
“We have a very robust agenda before us. The visit of the Prime Minister Singh was an important and consequential visit and we have an action agenda of commitments that we made during the visit and priorities that were reiterated during the visit,” another senior U.S. official said.
“We have a robust agenda to discuss. I would not say that we are in a period of inactivity under any circumstances,” the official said.
Informed sources familiar with the Obama-Singh meeting on September 27, 2013 attributed this new direction and enthusiasm, amidst the alleged plateau of relationship as described by political analysts to the strong personal relationship between the two leaders.