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    Default Obama visit: India may offer deals, US strategic help

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    What will India offer the Americans? What will the Americans offer India?
    Nikhil Lakshman glances at the smoke signals for next month's Obama visit.

    On Diwali night, less than three weeks from now, Barack Obama will arrive in Mumbai , but Indian diplomats take the route of arcane diplomatese when asked what we can expect from the American President's passage to India.

    Either the mandarins at the ministry of external affairs want to retain the surprise card. For instance, Obama telling the Indian people during his November 8 address to both Houses of Parliament that America endorses India's candidature for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council would bring the WOW! factor into play.

    Or maybe both sides are wrestling over issues with such gusto that it would make Satpal Maharaj beam. In other words everything is negotiable till the very moment when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Obama walk into the conference room at New Delhi's Hyderabad House on November 7.

    Five years ago, in a different Presidency, Indian negotiators -- including M K Narayanan, then India's National Security Adviser and now West Bengal's governor, and S Jaishankar, then Joint Secretary (US) at the ministry of external affairs and now our ambassador to China -- butted heads with George W Bush's senior aides over what would eventually become the India-US civilian nuclear agreement hours before that President greeted Dr Singh at the White House on July 18, 2005.

    This time around, the deal may be more direct and less complicated.

    Even if ultimately the likes of China, Pakistan and others move against India getting a permanent seat,' his sources told Aziz, 'the US could always argue that it did endorse India.'

    Barack Obama will be the first American President in recent times to visit India in his first term in office -- Bill Clinton arrived in March 2000, the last year of his second term; George W Bush in March 2006, no longer the unquestioned leader of the free world, indeed then its most divisive and polarising figure.

    Though both sides seem in stealth mode in the days running up to the Singh-Obama summit in New Delhi -- the Indian side highlighting recent history and the New Strategic Relationship, rather than identify likely landmarks -- we could be surprised yet.
    ...being a human...



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