WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama, who left Washington on Friday, will arrive in India with a mixed message: there will be no discussions on Kashmir, as New Delhi wishes, but the United States will not endorse the Indian desire for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Instead, President Obama will publicly acknowledge an enhanced role for India in the UN body but will link the granting of a permanent seat to a larger expansion in the council. “We support and encourage ongoing efforts between India and Pakistan to resolve their issues directly,” said US National Security Council’s spokesman Mike Hammer, when asked if President Obama would raise the Kashmir issue during his three-day visit to India.
“We’ve seen some efforts in the past and the meetings that they’ve had are encouraging, but clearly it is something that the two need to resolve,” said Mr Hammer who is accompanying President Obama.
This obviously endorses the Indian position that it can only hold bilateral talks with Pakistan on Kashmir and there could be no third party mediation. The visit, however, focuses heavily on economic and defence matters. “India, flush with new wealth but worried about its national security, is rapidly turning into one of the world’s most lucrative arms markets,” The New York Times reported on Friday.
India has apparently reduced its traditional reliance on Russia for planes, ships and missiles and is looking towards the West for replenishing its military hardware. The United States believes it is an obvious choice and the White House is backing sales like the C-17 aircraft, which India would use to transport its rapid-response forces, to help make India a regional counterweight to China.
As the United States and European nations trim military spending, US arms makers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin hope to enter the Indian market. During President Obama’s visit, the Americans hope to finalise a $10 billion defence deal, which includes 10 C-17 planes.
The C-17 deal is valued at $2.4 billion. If approved, it will become the largest single military purchase from the US by India, surpassing the $2.1 billion purchase of eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft in January 2009 and the $962 million acquisition of six Lockheed Martin-built C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft in March 2008.
The US will also sell GE aircraft engines for the Indian Air Force.
But the real focus is on the Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft or MRCA. India plans to buy 126 MRCA.
The Indian Defence Ministry has allocated $9.53 billion for the purchase of these aircraft
India and the US are also expected to finalise a deal for American M777 howitzer, towed artillery piece.
Other major items on the agenda will be nuclear commerce and outer-space equipment as India seeks to buy nuclear technology from US and other sources. But even greater emphasis is on trade.