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Asia

India gears up for Obama's historic trip

President Obama's momentous visit begins in Mumbai, India's financial hub. He hopes to encourage business deals to rejuvenate the US economy and also improve his re-election prospects for 2012.

President Obama will stay at Mumbai's Taj Palace Hotel, one of the targets of the November attacks

President Obama will stay at Mumbai's Taj Palace Hotel, one of the targets of the November attacks

Bilateral trade between India and the US is expected to exceed $US 50 billion this year. The US hopes to double its exports to India within five years. That's why US President Barack Obama is taking 200 chief executives with him on his three-day trip to India.

"When the president gets here and comes to Mumbai, which is one of the financial capitals of the world, not alone of India, I think he is going to talk of this economic trade relationship and how it benefits both countries," US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer predicted at a press conference.

India has its eye on a permanent seat in the UN Security Council

India has its eye on a permanent seat in the UN Security Council

"It creates jobs in America when we sell equipment to India to modernize its defense, when we sell clean technology to help promote a cleaner environment, when we collaborate on the second Green Revolution, on clean technology for climate issues. This is a very exciting partnership."

Obama to stay at hotel targeted in Mumbai attacks

President Obama will stay at the Taj Palace Hotel, one of several locations in the city targeted by terrorists two years ago in concerted attacks that killed over 165 people.

He is expected to meet with the families of victims and deliver a speech reaffirming America's commitment to fighting terrorism.

Washington is also eyeing a few multi-billion-dollar defense deals, including a $US 10-billion project for 126 fighter bombers that the Indian Air Force plans to buy. Two American companies - Boeing and Lockheed Martin - are among the six contenders.

Skirting difficult and complicated issues

Ahead of his visit, the president described India as a "cornerstone" of US engagement in Asia, but he made no assurances on two key issues – India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and ending curbs on export of dual-use technology, saying simply that both are "very difficult and complicated".

Former Indian ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh was disappointed: "These two issues were part of the big deliverables people were expecting here. And they were led to believe that Washington was getting ready to do that.

Now he has thrown buckets of cold water on these, so there is very little left in terms of deliverables."

Evolution of strategic partnership

India and US are expected to expand their counter-terrorism cooperation

India and US are expected to expand their counter-terrorism cooperation

However, another former Indian diplomat G Parthasarathy was more relaxed: "This is the most powerful country we are dealing with. I don't mind as long as there is progress - even if it is incremental. I don’t want him to be Father Christmas.

"We demean ourselves the way we go around with a begging bowl asking for membership of the UN Security Council. I think the government has lost all sense of self-respect. If it comes along, it comes along but for 60 years we have lived without it - it’s no big deal."

Other analysts feel that Obama will have to reassure New Delhi that the growing alliance begun by his predecessor George W. Bush is evolving into a strategic partnership.

Obama will be the sixth US president to visit India. He will then go on to Indonesia for the second leg of his four-nation Asian trip.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas

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