Washington: Notwithstanding strained ties after the arrest of an Indian diplomat, President Barack Obama strongly believes that relationship with India is “extremely important” and it must be further cemented, a top US official has said.

“This is an extremely important relationship and that has many aspects to it and cultural ties, political ties, economic ties. And the president believes strongly that we need to continue to build on that relationship,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday.

“He (Obama) worked very hard on US-India relations in his first term, and will continue to do so in his second term,” he said in response to a question on strained India-US ties following the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobargade on alleged visa fraud charges in New York last month.

“I don’t have anything more specific for you with regards to some of the issues that have come up in the last month,” he said.

“It’s an extremely important relationship and, I haven’t had that conversation with him yet. I know he’s updated on developments on the issues surrounding the relationship but I haven’t spoken to him about it,” Carney said.

“The president is obviously a consumer of the news as well as recipient of many briefings, so I can say with great confidence that he is following these developments, but I don’t have a position or view to express from the presidential level on those developments,” Carney said, without giving any indication of the White House position on the current bilateral spat between the world’s two largest democracies.

He directed all questions related to the arrest to the State Department.

“Well, I think the State Department is engaged and I know that they have addressed this in briefings by my colleague Jen Psaki and others, Marie Harf and others. So I would point you to what they’ve said about it,” he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday met President Obama at the White House which the officials described as a  routine foreign policy meeting.

“I don’t know if we get a readout of that. It’s a regular meeting the president has. So I just don’t know the answer to that,” he said when asked if India was discussed between Obama and Kerry.

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