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US president to visit India hoping for relations breakthrough

January 25, 2015, 5:19 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

From Obama’s viewpoint, Rhodes said, the current Washington - New Delhi relations have reached a potentially transitional, if not a transformational moment

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WASHINGTON, January 25. /TASS/. U.S. President Barack Obama is arriving in India on a visit on Sunday. Washington hopes for a breakthrough in bilateral relations.

The American leader’s visit to India will begin with a welcoming ceremony. It will be attended by President of India Pranab Mukherjee. Then the U.S. administration head will lay flowers at the monument to India’s “Father of the Nation” - Mahatma Gandhi, after which the mains events - talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi - will start. On Monday, Obama will be the main foreign honorary guest at the military parade on the occasion of India’s Republic Day, which is celebrated on 26 January. In addition, on the final day of the visit Obama and Modi will chair an American-Indian business summit with the participation of the heads of the two countries’ largest companies.

Assistant to the U.S. President and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told a special news briefing that the U.S. government regarded the visit as an opportunity to raise relations between Washington and New Delhi to a new level. According to him, the U.S. side aims to make these relations fundamentally different from what they were when President Obama and Prime Minister Modi came to power. The U.S. side believes that the two states now have a unique opportunity to achieve such a breakthrough, said the White House official.

“From the time the president took office, he’s made increasing U.S. engagement with India top foreign policy priority,” said Ben Rhodes.

From Obama’s viewpoint, Rhodes said, the current Washington - New Delhi relations have reached a potentially transitional, if not a transformational moment, because the Indian leadership has made it clear that it wants to raise the level of bilateral and global cooperation. The current U.S. administration also attaches major importance to developing America’s co-operation with India.

Rhodes declined to specify which agreements may be reached and what documents signed during Obama’s visit to India. He only confirmed that entire range of bilateral and multilateral issues would be discussed during the trip. Rhodes named the main subjects for discussion, in particular, the fight against global climate change, “clean” energy, trade and investment, defence, including military-technical cooperation, counterterrorism, regional issues, including normalisation of the situation in Afghanistan. Washington says that the US-India relationship has accumulated a large untapped potential, and the United States hopes Obama’s visit will help to make progress in the next two years in bilateral co-operation in the sphere of energy, defence, trade and investment, the U.S. president’s deputy national security advisor said.

Barack Obama’s wife Michelle is accompanying the U.S. president on the visit. Initially, the visit was scheduled for three days. On Tuesday, the U.S. president and his wife were planned to visit the famous Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra. However, just before the departure from Washington, White House spokesman Joshua Ernest said Taj Mahal was excluded from the visit’s schedule. The U.S. president and the “first lady” decided to fly to Riyadh to offer condolences to the government and people of Saudi Arabia on the death of King Abdullah. Obama will meet with the new Saudi monarch - Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, said Ernest. He said that the U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden’s planned trip to Saudi Arabia would not take place - he would stay in Washington.

According to American media reports, Obama will be the first U.S. president to visit India twice while in office; he also travelled there in early November 2010 for an economic summit. “The president's visit is expected to be heavy on symbolism and lighter on substantive advances, though climate change, economics and defence ties are all on the agenda,” the Associated Press news agency reports.

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