US President Barack Obama met India’s president on Monday ahead of talks with government leaders that will see him address Parliament to rally momentum behind business and diplomatic ties with the rising global power.
Obama has met with some criticism at home for travelling abroad so soon after his mauling in mid-term elections over unemployment, but has been well received in India, vowing to lift export controls and announcing $10-billion in business deals.
Whether answering questions from students over Pakistan or talking to farmers by video link, Obama’s trip has won positive coverage in a nation where US cultural influence is growing as is a new middle class, millions of consumers strong.
“We will be able to continue to build on the commercial ties that we already have, to strengthen our co-operation in bilateral relations in the international economy,” Obama said after being greeted by President Pratibha Patil.
Obama will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is expected to urge Obama to push Pakistan to crack down on anti-India militants and discuss support from India over China’s currency and dealing with global financial imbalances.
In his evening address to Indian lawmakers, many expect Obama to announce support for India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, something that New Delhi would see as a signal that Washington takes India seriously as a global power.
“We think he will chart out his roadmap for his engagement with India, politically and strategically, beyond what he has already said so far,” said an Indian government official who asked to remain anonymous.
Currency a priority
Obama’s first leg of a 10-day Asian tour has been hailed as moving the United States closer to India as Washington tries to revive a weak economy and gather support to exert pressure on China on its currency ahead of a G20 summit in Seoul this week.
The White House has presented the India leg to Americans as a trip about jobs for US workers, trying to allay concerns about India’s outsourcing industry sending Americans onto the street.
Global unbalances featured in discussions between US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on Monday.
In an opinion piece published in Monday’s Hindustan Times newspaper, Geithner said India was doing its part to rebalance global growth to avoid the kinds of massive trade surpluses and deficits that helped fuel the recent financial crisis.
“India is meeting this challenge, helping to demonstrate the dynamism that can accompany domestic demand-led growth combined with significant exchange-rate flexibility,” Geithner wrote.
Obama will visit Indonesia, South Korea and Japan on the tour that will see Washington push to prevent countries unilaterally devaluing currencies to protect their exports, a top theme at the G20 meeting in Seoul this week.
On Sunday evening, Singh hosted a dinner for the Obamas, where military bands played to 80 senior politicians, business leaders and film stars on the lawns of the Prime Minister’s private residence over a spread of traditional Indian delicacies. – Reuters