Kerry lays ground for Modi-Obama Summit

New Delhi :  For the last few months, Indo-American relations have been on a downward curve. But with a new Indian government in place, that promises to improve the ‘ease of doing business’ as well as open up the economy further. In fact, US foreign secretary John Kerry finds that that there has never been a ‘more ripe’ moment in the strategic partnership of the two countries to deliver on the possibili-ties of the relationship.

Kerry, the highest ranking US official to establish contact with the Modi government after it was installed a few months ago, made this observation after a marathon three hour strategic dialogue with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, and a high powered delegations on both sides. He will have a meeting with Prime Minister Modi before heading home.

The Indo-US strategic dialogue covers key issues like defence, trade and energy and the two sides also discussed other initiatives that could be a part of the agenda for the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama in September in Washington. In this context Kerry added: ‘‘In weeks to come, we will take series of steps to pave the way for PM Narendra Modi’s visit to US in September.”

But the areas of Indian concern were also flagged by the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. She said that the issue of US snooping of BJP leaders was taken up at the meeting. “I raised this issue with Secretary Kerry. I told him that when this news appeared in Indian papers, Indians were agitated and they had expressed their anger too. Main ussi rosh se apko awgat karana chahati hoon (I want to make you aware of that anger). I even told him that both countries consider each other as friendly nations and it will not be acceptable to us from any angle if one friendly country spies on another friendly country. This is unacceptable to us,” she said.

On his part, Kerry defended the US snooping, saying: “We do not discuss intelligence matters in public but we value our relationship with India, our bilateral relationship…we also value sharing of information between each other regarding counter-terrorism and other threats to both our countries. Usually, we try that our intelligence communities work in tandem to resolve any questions or differences that may exist. We will continue to work actively with India wherever we see a threat to our shared interest and we fully respect and understand the feelings expressed by the Minister.”

Swaraj also raised the issue of US immigration bill pending before the Senate which may limit the mobility of Indian IT professionals to the US.

Kerry confirmed that the bill would not get through the senate before the elections and would be taken up after that and all the aspects would be considered.

On trade-related issues, Kerry said there was a lot of work yet to done in breaking down trade barriers and to limit obstacles including tariffs, price controls, preferential treatment to certain products in large influential markets.“We can build a more competitive market as well as build the bridges of opportunities that our young people in both the countries want so much. With 10 million Indians entering the work force each year, the Indian government clearly understands this imperative,” he added.

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