Saturday 22 October 2016

'Kerry's Visit Start of Important Relationship With New Indian Govt'

Lalit K Jha, Washington
File - AP Photo/Lucas Jackson, Pool

The Obama administration hopes that Secretary of State John Kerry's recent visit to India will "melt the ice" in the ties and start an important relationship with the new Indian government that has great "strategic value" to America, a top US official has said.

Kerry visited New Delhi last week to co-chair the fifth annual India-US Strategic Dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

He was the first cabinet minister from the Obama administration to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzeker, also travelled to India along with the Secretary of State.

"It was certainly a warm visit and a warm meeting, so hopefully that will melt the ice," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, referring to Kerry's two-day visit.

"I would hardly see this visit as an ending or a conclusive visit as much as a beginning of an important relationship with a new government and one that has great strategic value to the United States," she said.

Defense Minister Chuck Hagel is scheduled to travel to India later this week, making him the third US Cabinet minister to meet Modi government officials within a week.

"It (Kerry’s trip) was the highest-level visit of a member of the Obama Administration to India since Prime Minister Modi was inaugurated. In addition to the strategic dialogue, he did have a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister, and it was the Prime Minister's first cabinet-level meeting with a US official," Psaki said.

"Discussions during that meeting covered a wide range of topics with considerable focus, in large part, on Modi's economic vision, how the US can help to advance that vision, including through support to the energy sector and through clean energy initiatives," she said.

"There was also significant discussion of the WTO, with the Secretary reiterating our position that unraveling the Bali Accord was not in India's interests and was not in keeping with Modi's vision of opening the economy," she said.

She said the two sides also discussed Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as India's Look East policy.

Kerry's visit two months ahead of Prime Minister Modi's trip to Washington in September was aimed at instilling some vigour into the bilateral ties, which appeared to have lost momentum in the final years of UPA regime.

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