Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Economic crisis, nuke proliferation to top Obama-Singh talks

The first meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama at the G-20 meeting in London on April 1-2 will be dominated by the global economic slowdown, nuclear non-proliferation and reorientation of US policy towards Afghanistan-Pakistan.

Singh will meet Obama on the sidelines of the summit.

The meeting is significant because apart from Singh being one of the few world leaders who will meet Obama in a one-on-one meeting during the summit, there are points of convergence and divergence regarding these issues the duo would have to address.

Speaking here on Monday, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said India would advocate reform and regulation of international multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), besides ensuring transparency in their functioning. As was its stand in the G-20 summit in Washington last November, Menon said India would highlight the need to “eschew protectionist measures”. This is especially the case in the US, where as part of its multi-billion-dollar stimulus packages, tax breaks are being given to companies that prefer employing US citizens rather than outsource their operations abroad.

The contentious issue of visa restrictions that this move entails is a sticking point for the two leaders to tackle.

The other global issue that’ll take precedence is nuclear non-proliferation. Menon has said that India “would not stand in the way of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)” from taking effect, but would continue to be out of the CTBT’s fold in its current form due to its discriminatory nature. As Obama has nuclear disarmament high on his agenda, Singh would be keen to hear his views on a “proposed summit on nuclear terrorism, anti-satellite weapon agreement and the elimination of clandestine nuclear proliferation networks.”


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