NEW DELHI, May 19: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could meet United States President Barack Obama when he visits New York for the United Nations General Assembly towards the end of September. Dr. Singh, who was handed over an invitation to visit Washington by a high-ranking U.S. diplomat, has accepted the offer, according to sources.
While Mr. Obama has visited many countries and heads of several close U.S. allies have made quick trips to Washington to meet him, India has been a blank spot on his itinerary and is likely to remain so for some time.
Instead, Mr. Obama is likely to accommodate Dr. Singh during the U.N. General Assembly when visiting leaders with whom the U.S. President has pressing business or hasn’t met for a while make a detour to Washington.
The sources said it was too early to set out the agenda of a meeting whose date had not been pinned down. Moreover, some of the pending bilateral business was discussed when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited New Delhi and several issues are being dealt with by heads of line Ministries.
A closure to some of them is likely during the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue which will be held here next month. India and the U.S. conduct their strategic dialogue at the level of Foreign Ministers.
This will only be Dr. Singh’s second bilateral visit to Washington during Mr. Obama’s tenure. The Prime Minister was accorded the status of a state guest when he had first met Mr. Obama. In fact, as the Americans never failed to remind the Indian audience, Dr. Singh was Mr. Obama’s first state guest after he took over as U.S. President.
At that time, there were U.S. expectations of a lucrative defence tenders coming their way as well as the prospect of earning tens of billions of dollars from orders for nuclear reactors.
Since then, India has placed military hardware orders worth $9 billion on U.S. companies. But the biggest of them all — the multi-role fighter tender — eluded the Americans and they don’t seem to be in the running for an upcoming mega tender for submarines.
In the civil nuclear sphere, where one reactor is expected to cost $7 billion – $8 billion, both U.S. companies have been struggling to comply with the formalities and are nowhere near beginning work on any of the dozen reactors promised at the time of the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement.