Modi, Obama to ponder upon ties twice over

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to hold not one but two comprehensive meetings with US President Barack Obama as he would try to smoothen the roughness that has crept into the bilateral ties between both countries, which refer to each other as 'natural allies'.

Both leaders will meet face-to-face first on September 29 and then on September 30 in Washington DC, post Prime Minister’s series of meetings with other world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York taking place on September 26 and September 27, a top official, involved with the visit, told Business Standard on condition of anonymity.

This will be somewhat unprecedented for any Prime Minister to meet Obama twice in one visit, especially keeping in mind the fact that Modi was once barred from entering US following the riots in Gujarat in 2002.

The US has especially worked out a ‘special gesture date’ for Modi because according to the protocol, President of the USA does not meet any heads of state separately during the UNGA summit.

On September 28, Modi will be addressing the Indian community there at the sprawling Madison Square Garden, located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. He will be the first Prime Minister to do so.,

Some of the issues that will top Modi’s agenda during his meeting with President Obama are the immigration bill, intellectual property rights (IPR) issues, standoff at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on trade facilitation, expanding the two-way trade, the series of WTO disputes and other strategic and defence issues.

According to the Prime Minister’s itinerary, on September 29 Modi will first take up some issues with Obama that includes exploring ways to increase diplomatic harmony post the recent row concerning Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

This will be followed by the full-fledged India-US Strategic Dialogue, with a special focus on trade and investment. This is because India and US have been at loggerheads recently over issues concerning India’s trade and industrial policies.

US, on its part, is expected to push IPR and WTO matters with India. US is especially irate with India’s IPR regime in the pharmaceuticals sector that grants a provision of compulsory licensing. The US administration is worried that other developing countries might follow adversely impacting the margins of multinational pharmaceutical firms.

Recently, during an interview with CNN, Modi has remarked that India and US are tied together by “history and culture” and that these ties “will deepen further.”

Just days before the visit, the US has candidly appointed an Indian-American as its new ambassador to India Richard ‘Rahul’ Verma.

Coinciding with the PM’s visit, September 30 has also been designated by US Senate as US-India Partnership Day.

Ever since Modi has come to power with a thumping victory, the US has left no stone unturned to build bridges with the new government. In less than 100 days of his coming to power, US Secretary of State John Kerry and defence secretary Chuck Hagel have made rounds of India meeting all the senior government officials, signaling an improvement in the relationship.


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