The year 2008 was marked by an intensification of the bilateral engagement between India and the USA. The signing of the Indo-US civil nuclear Agreement in Washington on 10 October 2008 was a culmination of the civil nuclear energy initiative announced during the visit of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to the USA in July 2005. India successfully concluded an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 1 August 2008 which paved the way for the USA to approach the 45 nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for an adjustment of the NSG guidelines to enable its Members to enter into civil nuclear cooperation and trade with India. The formal signing of the Agreement by External Affairs Minister, and his US Counterpart Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice took place on 10 October 2008 in Washington. The agreement is a symbol of the transformed nature of the bilateral dialogue and has added strategic content to the relationship. It has also opened up vast opportunities for bilateral, economic and high technology engagement.
While economic and commercial ties, defence cooperation and people to people contact were other priority areas of focus in the bilateral agenda, Indo-US consultations on global issues of common concern and the dialogues, work plans and implementation groups for bilateral initiatives in energy, education, science and technology, health, space, agriculture among others, continued to add depth and strengthen the Indo-US linkages.
Several high-level visits took place during the period. PM Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Washington in September 2008. In his meeting with President Bush the two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction on the achievements and progress made on the bilateral agenda and was set out in the Joint Statements of July 2005, issued during PM’s visit to Washington and of March 2006, issued during the visit of President Bush to India.
US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice visited New Delhi in October 2008 and held discussions with EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee. The latter visited Washington DC from 24-25 March 2008. He met his counterpart and also called on President George Bush. He interacted with a select group of scholars at the Camegie Foundation, a Washington based think tank. PM also visited Washington in November 2008 to attend the G-20 Summit.
Mr. William Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, US State Department visited India during 10-13 June 2009. He held talks with Foreign Secretary during which the two sides reviewed the existing architecture for bilateral dialogue and discussed new elements of cooperation which could form part of the new bilateral agenda and regional and global issues of common interest and shared concern. Under Secretary Burns called on the Prime Minister and handed over a letter addressed to him by President Obama. He also called on EAM, Home Minister, HRD Minister, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and the Leader of Opposition.
Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Anand Sharma visited Washington during 16-19 June 2009 to attend the 34th anniversary of the US India Business Council. He met with his US Counterpart Ambassador Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative and discussed Indo-US trade relations. CIM also met with US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton at the Synergies Summit hosted by the US India Business Council.
UN National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones visited India during 25-26 June 2009. He held talks with his Indian counterpart and discussed security cooperation and global issues of common concern. NSA Jones called on Prime Minister and Raksha Mantri.
US Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton visited India during 17-21 July 2009. She called on PM and held delegation level talk with External Affairs Minister. The five-day visit gave a boost to Indo-US relations and laid the roadmap for bilateral interaction in the coming years. Secretary of State and EAM jointly announced a new agenda for Indo-US relations in its “third Phase” (defined as 3.0 by Secretary of State) categorized as the five pillars of the relationship. They are
- science, technology, health and innovation;
- strategic cooperation;
- energy and climate change;
- education and development; and
- economics trade and agriculture. The revised dialogue architecture establishes new formalized interaction in the fields of health, education, women’s empowerment, climate change and strategic issues. Speaking at the Joint Press Conference after the delegation level talks, Secretary Clinton reiterated that deepening of Indo-US relationship was a personal priority for her. External Affairs Minister reciprocated the commitment of the US to strengthen bilateral relationship and conveyed the importance India attaches to Indo-US strategic partnership.
Two agreements – Technical Safeguards Agreement (Space) and an Indo-US Science and Technology Endowment Fund and Board Agreement were signed during the visit. The S&T Agreement seeks to establish an India-US Board and an Endowment for developing Joint Research and Development, Innovation, Entrepreneurial and Commercialization Activities in Science and Technology. The Technology Safeguards Agreement would allow India to launch third country civil or non-commercial satellites of US origin and which have US components. The two sides also agreed to a formulation on End Use Monitoring (EUM) to be included in letters of offer and acceptances for defence equipment to be acquired from USA for Government of India. A joint statement was issued during the visit highlighting the significance of Indo-US relationship and the global and bilateral agenda that would be pursued by the two sides. Secretary Clinton’s visit was high on content and symbolism. The two sides discussed bilateral, regional and global issues and affirmed their commitment to strengthen Indo-US strategic partnership. She conveyed an invitation from President Obama to Prime Minister to pay a State visit to Washington on 24 November 2009. This is the first invitation extended by the new US Government for a State visit by any Head of State of Government.
Defence and Security
The fifth meeting of the India-US Senior Technology and Security Group was held on 11-12 May 2009 in Washington USA. Issues related to Technology Transfer and Technology Collaboration were discussed.
Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander, US Pacific Command visited India from 13-15 May 2009 to discuss with Government of India issues related to the regional security situation, terrorism, and maritime security.
Shri Vivek Katju, Special secretary (Pol & IO) in MEA led the Indian delegation for the 11th meeting of the India-US Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism in Washington, 17 June 2009. The meeting enabled the Working group to address a wide range of issues relating to Counter Terrorism and India’s membership of the Financial Action Task Force.
Energy and Science and Technology Partnership
The second meeting of the India-US Civil Nuclear Working Group, was held from 28- 30 April 2009 in Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, USA. Both countries identified areas of collaboration in the field of nuclear energy and reactors.
A delegation comprising concerned GoI Ministries and Industry representatives participated in BIO 2009 Exhibition from 18-21 May 2009, in Atlanta, USA. India’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and GoI Ministries demonstrated their technological capabilities and explored opportunities for enhancing biotech exports and R & D collaboration.
India-US Biotechnology and Life Sciences Working Group under the bilateral High Technology Cooperation Group met on the sidelines of BIO 2009 on 20 May 2009 in Atlanta. Discussion focused on differentiation between legitimate generics and counterfeits; Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues like data protection, tractional knowledge disclosure norms; capacity building in harmonising regulatory frame work and collaboration in R & D.
The Obama Administration sent its first delegation to India from February 15-24, 2009, to mark the 50th anniversary of American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to India to study Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. The delegation included Dr. King’s eldest son, Dr. Martin Luther King III. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, visited India from 15-16 February. He called on EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee, on 16 February, and discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan with them.