NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Barack Obama in Hangzhou, China, on the sidelines of the G20 summit on September 4-5 in what will probably be the last meeting between them before the US president leaves office early next year.
This will follow the next edition of the Indo-US strategic and commercial dialogue in Delhi on August 30-31 when the two sides are expected to sign a key cyber relationship document that had been agreed during PM Modi’s trip to Washington in June.
While PM Modi is not travelling to New York for this year’s United Nations general assembly meeting, he will be in Laos for just over 24 hours during the September 7-8 East Asia and India-Asean summits, making it difficult to squeeze in a meeting with Obama on that occasion.
The two sides are therefore trying to organise a meeting in China to review measures Obama and Modi have initiated to revitalise bilateral ties since mid-2014 besides discussing geopolitics and the geo-economic situation amid China’s posture in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
Besides travelling to the US four times since becoming Prime Minister and hosting Obama for India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2015, the two have met a number of times on the sidelines of various multilateral events.
India and the US had agreed to conclude the cyber relationship agreement within 60 days when Modi visited Washington. The two sides are trying to conclude procedures in their respective countries to have documents ready for signing during the dialogue that will be attended by US secretary of state John Kerry and commerce secretary Penny Pritzker. Akey element of the pact is ensuring free flow of information and jointly fighting cybercrime and threats.
The two sides will work toward “identifying, coordinating, sharing, and implementing cybersecurity best practices,” said the joint document released during Modi’s trip to the US. This will involve “sharing information on a real-time or near real-time basis, when practical and consistent with existing bilateral arrangements, about malicious cybersecurity threats, attacks and activities, and establishing appropriate mechanisms to improve such information sharing.”
The last edition of the dialogue under the Obama presidency will try to conclude conversations on a variety of areas that were launched since 2009 and particularly since June 2014, suggested people with knowledge of the matter. The two leaders have built up a strong rapport in the past two years. The US has declared India a major defence partner and taken measures against Pakistan, including stopping the sale of F-16 fighter jets to it.
The US is also upbeat about commercial ties with India following the recent progress made by India on putting a goods and services tax (GST) in place. Washington has been urging Delhi over the past several years to simplify the tax code and make it easier for US companies to do business in India.
This will be the first bilateral engagement by Indian officials on economic matters after parliament approved the constitutional amendment bill that paves the way for the rollout of GST, possibly as early as April 1next year.