Mumbai: US President Barack Obama began his maiden visit to India Saturday by promising
to remove restrictions on sensitive high-tech exports, a nagging
irritant in the evolution of bilateral ties, even as he declared
deals worth $15 billion that would support some 54,000 American
jobs and seek to answer critics back home.
Arriving shortly after noon on Air Force One with First Lady
Michelle and senior cabinet colleagues like secretaries of
treasury and commerce, Obama said all the right things that would
please Indians even as he told his audience back home to shed old
stereotypes about the country as growing ties with India would
benefit both nations which he said were set for a "defining and
indispensable partnership of the 21st century".
"We not only welcome India's rise, but we ardently support it,"
the president told a business summit at Oberoi's Trident Hotel -
one of the targets of the 26/11 attackers that struck Mumbai - on
the first day of his four-day visit to India, the first halt in a
four-nation Asian tour.
Obama said the US will work with India to reform export laws as
Washington readies to express "in-principle" support to New
Delhi's membership of elite nuclear clubs like the Nuclear
Suppliers Group (NSG).
"Today I am pleased to announce that we will work with India to to
fundamentally reform our control on exports which will allow
greater cooperation in the range of high-tech sectors and
strengthen our non-proliferation efforts," Obama said.
The US is set to remove three banned Indian entities from its
Entities List, freeing them to export sensitive technologies,
informed sources said. They include: Defence Research and
Development Organization (DRDO), Indian Space Research (ISR0) and
the Hyderabad-headquartered Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).
This could be reflected in the joint statement India and the US
are expected to come out after talks between Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and Obama Monday.
The United States will support India's full membership in the four
multilateral export control regimes, Mike Froman, Deputy National
Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, said.
"These are the Nuclear Suppliers Group; what's called the MTCR
regime -- the Missile Technology Control Regime; the Australian
Group; and the Wassanaar Arrangement," said .
He was referring to top nuclear non-proliferation multilateral
regimes that control global trade in dual-use and sensitive
Earlier, Obama - standing before the iconic Taj Hotel that was
also ravaged by the terrorists that left over 160 people dead -
pledged to deepen counter-terror cooperation with New Delhi,
saluted Mumbai for its resilience and paid homage to Mahatma
Gandhi whom he called the "hero to the world".
His India visit, Obama said, would be the longest he had
undertaken to any country in his 22-month presidency. "I believe
the relationship between United States and India will be one of
the defining and Indispensable partnerships of the 21st century,"
he said, as some 400 top executives from the two sides watched in
"Americans have helped build India and India has helped to build
America," he said in a speech, that elicited wide applause at
least five times, ending with a standing ovation after his
"And (yet) there still exists a caricature of India as a land of
call centres and back-offices that cost American jobs. That's a
real perception," the president added in reference to critics who
say outsourcing to countries like India has caused thousands of
job losses in the US.
Nudging India to open up key sectors like retail and agriculture,
which hold a huge potential for American companies, Obama said:
"Here in India, I know many still see perceive the arrival of
American companies and products to small shop keepers and to
India's ancient and proud culture."
"But these old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today's
reality. In 2010, trade between our countries is not just a
one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India,"
"It is a dynamic two way relationship which is creating jobs,
growth and higher living standards in both our countries and that
is the truth. As we look to India today, the United States see the
opportunity to sell exports to one of the fastest growing markets
in the world."
Obama, who made a passing reference to the Congressional election
where the Democrats lost control in the House of Representatives
to rival Republicans, told his audience back home that Americans
stood to "benefit from strengthening ties with India".
Among the corporate leaders invited for the event included
Honeywell's David Cote who co-chairs the India-US CEO Forum with
Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata, PepsiCo chairperson Indra Nooyi,
Boeing Co's Jim McNerney and General Electric Co's Jeffrey Immelt.
Ahead of Obama's speech, the White House announced commercial
deals worth over $15 billion that will also address the domestic
constituency by supporting nearly 54,000 jobs in the US - a key
issue in a recession-hit America.
The deals include the purchase of as many as 33 Boeing-737
aircraft by the Indian budget carrier SpiceJet and an order on
General Electric to supply 414 engines to power India's indigenous
light combat aircraft.
Obama, who flies to New Delhi Sunday afternoon for talks with
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with whom he has developed a close
relationship, made a stirring impression on his hosts when he
mixed freely with survivors and kin of the Mumbai attack victims
that included six Americans.
But walking a tight diplomatic rope, Obama refrained from naming
or alluding to Pakistan, a US ally New Delhi blames for the Mumbai
From the Taj, Obama and Michelle reached Mani Bhavan, where his
"hero" Mahatma Gandhi used to stay and which is now a museum, to
pay tribute to the apostle of non-violence who has wielded
enormous influence on African Americans.
After the 30-minute tour, a visibly moved president wrote: "I am
filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view
this testament to Gandhi's life. He is a hero not just to India
but to the world."
Michelle wrote: "This visit will be one I will always treasure."
Obama leaves for Indonesia Tuesday.