‘No baggage in Obama’s Siri Fort speech’

February 05, 2015 12:28 am | Updated November 26, 2021 10:26 pm IST - WASHINGTON:

President Barack Obama waves to the audienceafter his speech at the Siri Fort Auditorium inNew Delhi on January 27.

President Barack Obama waves to the audienceafter his speech at the Siri Fort Auditorium inNew Delhi on January 27.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments on the need to respect religious diversity in India, delivered during his speech at Siri Fort in New Delhi last month, did not comprise a “parting shot” even though it had since “been somewhat misconstrued,” said a top administration official here.

During a media readout of Mr. >Obama’s trip to India , Philip Reiner, National Security Council Senior Director For South Asian Affairs, said, “I wouldn’t insinuate that there’s any baggage there at all. It was more of a speech to what are our common interests and values that help drive us forward.”

His comments came in the wake of reports that questioned whether Mr. Obama’s words were implicitly directed at the administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A nine-year visa ban on Mr. Modi had been lifted after he became the Prime Minister in May 2014.

Mr. Reiner also emphasised the success achieved by bilateral discussions during the trip, both in terms of the deeper “institutionalisation” of arrangements as well as concrete policy breakthroughs.

Regarding the civilian nuclear agreement, Mr. Reiner noted that the “tangible progress” achieved was that the two governments had “removed the ambiguity that was preventing [U.S. nuclear] companies from moving forward,” and there would be a conference in the near term on how to build the insurance pool elements that would go into actually making the deal a reality.

When asked whether the progress cited by officials on defence cooperation entailed sensitive technology transfers or a more basic level of cooperation he added, “They’re pretty high-tech,” and pointed to the example of the Raven drones as well as U.S.-India collaborations on aircraft technology.

Not ruling out tension Though progress on the defence framework and other arrangements was achieved, Mr. Reiner said this did not rule out “tension” in the future between the two sides.

Reflecting on continuing U.S. concerns about Indian policies regarding Intellectual Property Rights protection and local content requirement, he said: “I’m not interested in overselling what it is that we’ve accomplished,” adding, “There will be a time in the coming months where we again encounter a tough set of issues that we need to work through, a policy crisis or a policy difference that will require senior-level engagement.”

However, Mr. Reiner explained, “If there wasn’t tension, in my personal opinion that means you’re not working hard enough. If you’re working on the toughest issues together, there’s going to be bumps along the road, but you have a framework in place that allows you to work through them.”

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