Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today embarked on a visit to the US to chart a course for "future cooperation" by expanding and deepening bilateral relations in a host of areas, including trade and investment, defence and counter-terrorism.
During his week-long visit, Singh will hold talks with President Barack Obama in Washington and attend the UN General Assembly in New York, besides having a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Implementation of the civil nuclear deal, ways to expand cooperation in the fields of defence, security and economic issues will be high on the agenda of the meeting between Singh and Obama in Washington on September 27.
Some agreements including the one between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and US firm Westinghouse and about a dozen in the field of defence are expected to be signed during the visit. "Over the past decade, our relationship with the United States, which is one of our most important relationships, has transformed into a global strategic partnership," Singh said in his departure statement.
Singh, who will be having a third summit meeting with Obama since 2009 said, "The intensive, high-level bilateral visits over the last few months reflect the strong momentum of bilateral engagement. We have also registered impressive progress in our cooperation across the full spectrum of the relationship.... My visit is an opportunity to review our joint efforts and chart a course for our future cooperation," he said.
The Prime Minister said India sees the US as a long-term partner in the country's development efforts, and in fostering a global environment that is conducive to its growth. Singh said, "For India, the US remains a key source of technology, investment, innovation and resources, and one of the most important destinations for our goods and services. "We have productive and deepening partnerships in trade and investment, defence, counter-terrorism, intelligence, internal security, cyber security, civil nuclear energy, environment, health, higher education, space, science and technology and culture," he said.
From Washington, Singh will move to New York to address the UNGA. The Prime Minister said he looked forward to meeting with leaders of neighbouring countries including Pakistan during his visit to New York.
At the Summit meeting with Obama, Singh is expected to flag concerns over the proposed changes in US visa norms which would affect the highly-skilled IT professionals from India. Situation in this region, including Afghanistan after withdrawal of US-led forces next year, besides global issues like Syria are also expected to figure in the talks. The two leaders are likely to discuss ways to give a push to the cooperation in civil nuclear and defence fields, which are the "pillars" of the relationship.
In the defence field, they are expected to also look at ways to convert the buyer-seller relationship into joint design, development and production. The US recently said it wants to replicate Russia and jointly build defence systems like Brahmos with India.
In the area of security, the two sides will discuss ways for cooperation in securing airports and ports. Singh noted that the UN General Assembly will focus this year on the follow up to the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, which marked the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit.
The General Assembly will also look at drawing up the global development agenda after 2015, which is the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000. "Despite successes on many parameters, the world as a whole is unlikely to meet the MDGs, and it is important that we sustain our efforts. I will emphasise the importance of maintaining poverty eradication and inclusive development at the core of the post-2015 development agenda," he said.
The Sustainable Development Goals that are expected to be drawn up as part of the follow-up to the Rio+20 Conference should ensure a holistic approach to sustainable development objectives, ensuring a balanced treatment of its economic, social and environmental dimensions as well as universal applicability, he stressed.