Washington: Ahead of President Barack Obama's trip to India, a top US energy expert has said the upcoming visit is a "golden opportunity" for the two nations to join hands in the energy sector and address the key issue of climate change.
Obama is scheduled to visit India to attend the annual Republic Day celebrations on January 26 as its Chief guest at the invitation of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Energy is likely to be a major part of the discussion between the two leaders, said Raymond Vickery, who served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development in the Clinton Administration, where he was responsible for India in the Department's Big Emerging Markets initiative.
"I have no doubt that the (US) President coming as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day on January 26 is a golden opportunity for the US and India to come together on this (energy sector)," Vickery, who recently wrote a book "India Energy: The Struggle for Power" told PTI in an interview.
Arguing that two countries "needs to engage in energy sector across the board", Vickery who is known as a leading advisor concerning US-India relations said energy will be one of the important discussion points between Obama and Modi.
Observing that on climate change the focus is now on India, after the recent US-China deal on it and the developments in Lima – Vickery, felt that India can do the same sort of thing that China has done without really hampering the prospects for economic growth.
"Climate change ought to be seen and dealt with, to be part of meeting India's energy crisis and not separately," Vickery said.
"There needs to be deal between India and the US in getting the technology and financing on commercially viable basis between the two countries. That should go along with whatever is being discussed in regard to climate change," he said.
Vickery said that the new Indian government is "off to a good start" on the energy sector, but the kind of reforms needed has not happened yet.
The top American expert also said: "De-control of diesel and the change in the pricing of natural gas, the announcement in the increase goals for solar and the announcements of about USD4 billion to cut down on the solar technical losses – the electrical power that is stolen out and not paid for – those are all good steps."
"But the kind of economic reforms, which enables India to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty has to be extended to the energy sector. Economic reform in energy sector has lagged behind for the rest of the economy," he said.
"It is only marginally useful to sell off portions of Coal India Limited. What really needs to be done is to break up Coal India and have private participation and try to create a market. I realise that suggestion has tremendous political problems," he added.
"But one of the great strengths of the Modi Government is that it has changed the political calculus, because of the majority in the Lok Sabha and because of the strength that is being shown overall. I am very much in hope that the Modi Government would take further reform efforts across the board in the Indian energy sector," Vickery said.
"India does not need more studies about what needs to be done. I think that the Indian leaders know what needs to be done. It is a question really of whether there is political will to continue the reforms in the energy sector," he said.
"India needs to start acting internationally in accordance with its true position in the world and in its own interest. India is an importer of energy. That (energy independence) is not going to happen in foreseeable future. So India needs to do is to join the international energy agency," he added.
"India needs to make common cause with other nations which have similar interests including the US, Japan rather than looking to some idealistic situation in which you have energy independence. Energy independence is not a policy. It is a slogan," Vickery said.
"What is needed is a policy that can move India to greater use of its domestic resources but at the same time further its interests internationally," he added.