Washington: The US will seek to establish top level contact with the new Indian government as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in India Wednesday on a visit that is expected to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-awaited September visit to the US.
Ahead of visiting India, Kerry, in a major speech, stressed that the US and India have the potential to become indispensable partners for the 21st century and said Washington wants to support the Modi government’s vision of “sabka saath, sabka vikas (together with all, development for all)”.
Kerry in his address at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a major US think-tank, said Monday evening that he would be “emphasizing the opportunities” in which the US and India can become indispensable partners when he touches base with the new Indian government.
Kerry will co-chair the fifth annual India-US Strategic Dialogue July 31 along with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Kerry, who mentioned Modi’s name 11 times in his address, said: “The new Indian government’s plan, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, together with all, development for all – that’s a concept, a vision that we want to support.
“We believe it’s a great vision, and our private sector is eager to be a catalyst in India’s economic revitalization.”
Kerry will be accompanied by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on the visit. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is to visit next month as part of preparations for the meeting between Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington.
State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said in a statement that in addition to holding the Strategic Dialogue, Kerry will meet Prime Minister Modi, “the first cabinet-level meeting with a US official since the inauguration of the new Indian government”.
She added that discussion will cover “the full range of bilateral issues, including expanding bilateral trade, tackling climate change, improving India’s energy security through cooperation in clean energy and energy access, and expanding our already robust people-to-people ties”.
The visit of the US’ top diplomat “underscores the importance of the US-India partnership, and will lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Modi’s September visit to the United States”.
In his speech at CAP, Kerry touched on Modi’s invite to South Asian leaders for his swearing-in May 26.
“Now clearly, Prime Minister Modi understands the opportunities that regional connectivity provides for India and for a more stable, prosperous region.
“And by inviting leaders from around the region to his swearing-in, and by bringing them together to speak about connecting their economies as one of his first orders of business, he is eager for India to play a leading role. And guess what? So are we.”
Touching on India-Pakistan relations, Kerry said Modi’s invite to his counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration was an important first step in improving cross-border trade and ties.
He said both Modi and Sharif “are business-minded leaders who want to create opportunity for their people”.
Kerry said the US was committed to do everything to encourage India and Pakistan to work together and improve ties.
He pushed for India and the US increasing bilateral trade from $100 billion to $500 billion and said it was in their “mutual interest” to address the “obstacles that kind of raise their head here and there as you go along”.
Kerry said both sides needed to build on the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement “so that American companies can start building and can start providing clean power to millions in India”.
The present moment could be a time “where our destinies actually do converge”, he said, calling for both sides to harness their capacities, deepen their partnership and make smart choices.
“That is why I leave for Delhi tomorrow (July 29) night, and that is why the president will welcome Prime Minister Modi to Washington in September.
“Because this is the moment to transform our strategic relationship into an historic partnership that honours our place as great powers and great democracies.
“We intend to leave not an instant behind us. We are going to get to work now.”