Challenges await as PM embarks on tough US trip

Manmohan Obama Manmohan Singh and US President Obama are expected to underline the need to extricate the strategic partnership between the two countries. (Reuters)

Keen to revive a relationship that was once on the fast track, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama are expected to underline the need to extricate the strategic partnership between their two countries from the web of regulations and processes that has blocked progress in key areas such as defence, civil nuclear energy and trade.

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India, it is learnt, will convey its willingness to move forward on two specific US proposals for co-development and production of weapon systems in India but would want maximum technology transfer. New Delhi will also assure Washington on the nuclear liability issue, making it clear that it does not intend to apply the law in a way that is inconsistent with international practices.

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Singh, who leaves for the US Wednesday on what is seen as a tough trip, will clearly be on test in all his three crucial bilateral meetings over the weekend- first, Obama on Friday, who is likely to have a list of concerns on the economic side; then, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday, who will want answers on his government's failure to even table the land boundary agreement in Parliament; and finally, his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Sunday, who will want him to show more political magnanimity by resuming talks.

Related: Controversy over nuclear liability law ahead of Manmohan Singh's US visit

But it is to Obama that Singh is keen on conveying intent, even if it appears too little, too late.

The broad package, which also seeks to convey India's commitment to economic reforms, includes:

n Civil Nuclear Cooperation: A Rs 102 crore preliminary agreement between Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Westinghouse is expected to be signed to show that India remains committed to providing two sites for US reactors. The Cabinet Committee on Security approved this pact Tuesday. However, key problems such as nuclear liability will remain unaddressed.

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