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Remarks by MEA Official Spokesperson on the visit of US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice

New Delhi
March 15, 2005

Official Spokesperson: Good evening. US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice is arriving in New Delhi later this evening. There is full coverage at the airport. The programme tomorrow is that there will be a restricted delegation meeting with the External Affairs Minister at Hyderabad House at 9.45 am. This will be followed by a joint press interaction. Thereafter she has a meeting with the Leader of Opposition Shri L.K. Advani. There is a call on the Prime Minister. There is a lunch hosted by the External Affairs Minister and thereafter she leaves for Islamabad.

What happens in the talks we will come to know at the joint press interaction. I will give you some points today as a curtain raiser.

This is the first visit of a Cabinet-level minister from the United States in the second Bush term. It is likely to be followed by the visits of the US Transportation Secretary and the US Treasury Secretary that is Mr. Norman Y. Mineta and John W. Snow.

This is Dr. Rice’s first visit to India and in fact to South Asia. India, as you know, is the first stop on the tour. She has been taking a very close interest in the bilateral relationship between India and the United States during the first term of President Bush and has been also focusing on cooperation in defence and economic ties, as well as in the NSSP process.

There have been significant steps in the bilateral relationship leading up to this visit. These include cooperation in the Tsunami response between India and the US. That was a big boost to our military-to-military cooperation and working relationship with the US forces. This followed the visit of the Defence Secretary Mr. Donald Rumsfeld in December 2004.

On the economic side there have been some elements which provide for the basis for expansion of ties i.e. the enhancement of foreign holding in the telecom, housing, infrastructure, banking and civil aviation sectors. The positive movement is also indicated by the progress in the open skies agreement in civil aviation. The economic dialogue which is headed on the Indian side by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission will give further momentum to this process,

At the political level, as you know, both governments have been in close touch and have been having regular consultations on matters of regional and global interest. Recently we have worked together with the United States on coordinating our positions on Nepal.

There has been encouraging progress in the NSSP. Since October 2004, when NSSP Phase-I came into effect the lower end of the licenses that accounted for almost 30 per cent of the transactions have been completely delicensed. The processing of the higher end licensing has speeded up both quantitatively and qualitatively. Between October 2004 and January 2005, 185 licenses were approved and only 22 were denied. As you know the discussions of NSSP Phase-II are continuing.

What will be discussed tomorrow - your guess is as good as mine. When the leaders meet they can discuss anything but certain areas we expect to come up for discussions would be further expansion of our bilateral relationship in the fields of technology, economy and security, an exchange of views on regional issues including Nepal, Bangladesh and the India–Pakistan dialogue, an assessment of ongoing cooperation in Afghanistan, an exchange of views and an update on the developments in Iraq, overview of global developments and reforms of the UN including the reform of the Security Council.

That is all that I have to say today.