The U.S. will send two of its top diplomats to New Delhi this week to prepare for President Barack Obama’s maiden visit in November, a sojourn billed as a defining moment in bilateral ties.
Less than three weeks ahead of Mr. Obama’s visit, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake are scheduled to be in New Delhi later this week to hold wide range of talks with top Indian officials on issues related to Presidential visit.
They would be travelling to New Delhi to give final shape to the agenda of Mr. Obama’s India sojourn in the first week of November.
While the dates of the trip has not been announced yet, Mr. Obama is expected to be in India from November 5 to 9; thus making it his longest overseas stay in a country as President of the United States.
Accompanied by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, this would be his first ever visit to India.
The Burns-Blake visit, officials said is likely to be the last major top level visit of U.S. officials to India before the Obama visit, sources said.
However, officials did not rule out the possibility of the trips by other U.S. officials before the trip, which they said is still more than a fortnight away.
The Burns-Blake visit comes as a quick follow up to the series of Cabinet-level visits from Indian to U.S. in the last one month including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, and Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna — all of whom met the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
The National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and the Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao were also in Washington this month as part of the preparatory talks with their American counterparts.
Informed sources said officials of the two countries during the Burns-Blake visit would zero in on the actual deliverables for the Obama trip.
Last week, Mr. Blake said that Mr. Obama is preparing for a landmark visit to India in November.
“I foresee our great nations becoming ever closer in the years and decades to come. President Obama intends to make a landmark visit to India in November to help further grow the ties between our two knowledge societies, our economies, and our people,” he said.
“In just a decade there has been a transformation in the way the United States views India. President Obama has called India our indispensable partner for the 21st century,” Mr. Blake said in his remarks at the San Diego World Affairs Council.
India’s strategic importance to the United States reflects several factors, he said, including the centre of gravity of U.S. foreign policy has shifted from Europe to Asia and within Asia no other country has the thriving democracy, economic promise, the sheer human capital and the growing record of cooperation with the United States that India has, he argued.