USA, Inc. in focus as PM arrives in US

Washington, Sep 26 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here Thursday for his third summit with US President Barack Obama with lawmakers and the administration alike focusing on corporate America's concerns over doing business with India.

Ahead of the visit, the US Senate passed a unanimous resolution welcoming him "for meetings to advance the United States-India partnership" while making a plea for "further liberalisation" to "bring increased prosperity to both countries".

The resolution was initiated by the co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Cornyn, and joined as sponsors by the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez.

Meanwhile, Corporate America mounted an offensive about what it called India's "discriminatory" trade practices with 18 business organisations under the umbrella of Alliance for Free Trade with India (AFTI) dashing off a letter to President Obama.

The letter urged Obama to take up the issue with Manmohan Singh saying "India's discriminatory trade policies put American businesses at a disadvantage, place manufacturing jobs at risk, and jeopardise India's ability to grow its economy".

The Obama administration was more than willing with a senior Obama administration official previewing the visit saying corporate America's concerns about doing business in India will be the "centrepiece for discussions" Friday between the two leaders.

At the same time, in a teleconference with Indian media Wednesday, the official asserted that progress would be made on defence trade and technology transfer, civilian nuclear cooperation and clean energy.

The "trajectory" of bilateral engagement during Manmohan Singh's 10th meeting with Obama, including seven meetings at other international fora, would "reflect the strength in relations and the personal warmth" between the Obamas and the Singhs, he said.

As Manmohan Singh meets Obama at his Oval Office at the White House Friday morning to "set out a road map for the path ahead", First lady Michelle Obama will host a separate tea for the prime minister's wife Gursharan Kaur in the residential wing.

After the summit and a brief media appearance for statements by both leaders, Singh and Obama will sit down for a working lunch along with their respective delegations.

Meanwhile, shortly after landing in Washington Thursday, Gursharan Kaur is planning to attend the investiture ceremony of Chandigarh-born Indian American legal luminary Srikanth 'Sri' Srinivasan who is a family friend.

Srinivasan made history with his unanimous Senate confirmation as the first South Asian judge on the powerful appeals court for the American capital, often called the nation's second highest court.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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