Wordplay, relief at US airports

Wordplay, relief at US airports

By: || Updated: 01 Oct 2014 04:35 AM
Washington:  When the Indian and US summit delegations met in the White House, they had so much to discuss that the outcomes of those discussions had to be compressed into acronyms in order accommodate their joint agenda within reasonable attention spans for the people who will be tasked with their follow-up.




So, in the field of education there will be something that will phonetically sound as gyan — meaning knowledge in Hindi. It will be a new programme the highlight of which will be to enable American teachers of repute to teach in Indian universities. The programme, agreed upon during White House discussions by the two sides in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama, has been christened the Global Initiative of Academic Networks or GIAN for short.


The two sides have launched an alliance which will similarly have the acronym WASH. The acronym appropriately reflects its objectives. It is a new alliance between India and the US to improve the quality of India's water, sanitation and health: WASH for short.


If another project that was agreed upon  is effectively followed up, Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam will be modernised, developed and transformed in partnership with the US Agency for International Development, headed by a Gujarati American, Rajiv Shah. Organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will chip into this “smart city” partnership.


The delegation-level talks were to last only one hour and then the two leaders were to have a “restricted” meeting with only key aides to wrap things up, but the bilateral agenda was so large that the process took two hours.


As a result of White House summit, a large number of Indians arriving in the US, mainly frequent travellers, will no longer have to spend hours waiting to be cleared by immigration officials at busy airports like New York’s John F. Kennedy, Washington’s Dulles or Chicago’s O’Hare.


India will immediately be covered by the US Global Entry Programme, which eliminates the need for pre-approved, low-risk travellers to even meet any immigration agent before entering America.


The US Customs and Border Protection agency explained that with this, arriving Indian participants in the programme will proceed to Global Entry kiosks, insert their machine-readable passports into a machine, place their fingertips on a scanner for fingerprint verification and make a customs declaration digitally. The kiosk will issue a transaction receipt and direct the traveller straight to baggage claim and the exit.


The US government agreed to India’s participation in Global Entry in response to Modi’s announcement at his Madison Square Garden reception in New York on Sunday that American tourists going to India would get visas on arrival while US citizens travelling to India for other reasons would be granted long-term visas.


On the strategic side, summit agreed that India and the US would henceforth exchange watch lists of suspected terrorists.


Hopefully, the measure will prevent another incident like David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, co-conspirators in the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, having been allowed into India with impunity.


Although the US knew of their links with Lashkar-e-Toiba, this information was not shared with India, which could have prevented an attack on Mumbai. Headley is an American, who is half Pakistani, while Rana is a Pakistani Canadian who was living in Chicago when the 2008 conspiracy was being hatched.


India and the US will also exchange information on radicals returning from terrorist havens like Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Iraq and Syria now controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.


Dawood swoop


For the first time, Washington and New Delhi formally committed their security and law enforcement agencies to dismantling the networks of Dawood Ibrahim’s “D-company”. Also covered by such crackdown will be the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed operating mainly from Pakistan which are of critical interest to India.


In return, India will help in cracking down on the Haqqani network in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as al Qaida, which are both of equal interest to the Americans.


If this measure is sincerely followed up, it could open a new chapter in Indo-US cooperation in dealing with terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan, but it remains to be seen if America’s intelligence agencies, which usually mollycoddle Islamabad, will truly help in this effort.


Among other agreements are invitations to US companies to roll out infrastructure for e-governance in India and a joint working group on Mars missions in the next decade. A bilateral contact group with multiple agencies on both sides has been set up for following up on the nuclear deal. This group will soon begin talks with suppliers of US nuclear equipment and technology.


The summit ended on a hopeful note that Obama will become the first US President to visit India twice while in the White House.


-The Telegraph, Calcutta

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