There will be no “transformational initiative” proposed during the bilateral visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, but announcements are expected on infrastructure, energy, education, and Mr. Modi’s “smart cities” initiatives.
Sources tell The Hindu that several MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit, as well as agreements on renewable energy technology, skills development, and an educational MoU on online interactive courses with premier American Universities like MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology) called ‘EDX.’
Defence ties are at the top of the security agenda, with discussions on defence co-production on anti-tank Javelin missiles as well as a possible deal on U.S. helicopters. However, a power sector pact on sharing technology is still uncertain despite three rounds of meetings with Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who travelled to the U.S. this month, as the U.S. wants to include a parallel agreement on Climate Change commitments that India has refused to sign.
The comparatively modest list of deliverables is part of a more “practical atmosphere” in Washington ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit. “Spirits are high, and it will be good for President Obama to meet Prime Minister Modi for the first time and for the two leaders to get to know each other,” says Dianne Farrell of the U.S.-India Business Council, “But instead of dramatic announcements, expect practical deliverables. There is a good sense in Washington of the problems in moving forward on many of the issues, especially trade issues like on the WTO (World Trade Organization).”
India’s refusal to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is likely to be on the top of the list of “non-deliverables” from the Modi-Obama Summit, say sources. But there are several other areas where agreement between the two leaders may not be possible as well. U.S. deputy Trade representative Wendy Cutler was in New Delhi to iron out differences over intellectual property rights (IPR) raised mainly by American pharmaceutical companies, and proposed announcing a working group to deal with IPR during Mr. Modi’s visit. There are few hopes of a breakthrough on nuclear issues as well, as the two American nuclear suppliers, GE and Westinghouse’s projects have run into a wall over India’s nuclear suppliers liability law.To meet GE CEO
Mr. Modi will meet with GE Chairman and CEO Jeffery Immelt in New York for a one-on-one meeting where the automotive and nuclear power giant’s concerns will be discussed. “We have no ostrich-type approach, and we have a completely open mind on trying to fix the nuclear issues,” Power Minister Piyush Goyal told The Hindu. “But the liability law is a matter of fact, it is the law of the land. We are in negotiation with the nuclear power suppliers directly and I am confident a way out will be found soon.”
Speaking through a conference call on the visit, U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal said that the U.S. wasn’t looking for a “transformational initiative”, but “You will see renewed effort and commitment [from both sides] to work through all the issues.”