6:39 pm - Saturday November 7, 2015

US & Modi look beyond visa row, to revive strained relations with India

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Obama’s message was conveyed in a letter handed over to Modi by visiting US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. In the letter, Obama reiterated his invitation to Modi to visit Washington in September for a summit.

Modi said he was looking forward to a “result oriented visit with concrete outcomes that impart new momentum and energy to the India-US strategic partnership”. He said: “Reenergising the partnership between India and the US would send an important message to the region and beyond.”

The relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies should benefit the two sides and “emerge as a powerful force of good for peace, stability and prosperity in the world”, he added.

Burns is the senior-most US official to visit India since Modi’s government assumed office in May. He arrived in Delhi just over a week after the government summoned a top American diplomat to protest about the US National Security Agency receiving authorisation to snoop on the BJP in 2010.

Asked about the snooping row, Burns said the US understands India’s concerns and would “deal with them professionally”.

Having hit new heights in recent years with a landmark civil nuclear deal and several bigticket defence contracts, India-US ties encountered a massive hurdle last year after Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested in New York on visa fraud charges. Furthermore, though Modi himself has spoken of his desire to build better ties with the US, several BJP leaders have expressed outrage at the US denying a visa to him for almost a decade over the 2002 Gujarat violence.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the discussions between Burns and the Indian leadership would help “chalk out pathways” to the strategic dialogue to be held in Delhi later this month and the prime minister’s visit to the US. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to chair the strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on July 31.

Burns, who also met Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, told Modi of Obama’s desire to strengthen economic relations, including in the sphere of next-generation technologies and manufacturing, cooperate in enhancing energy security, deepen security cooperation, especially in maritime security, counter-terrorism and intelligence exchange, and expand consultation and coordination on Afghanistan.

Modi recalled Obama’s telephone call soon after the election and expressed his appreciation for the US President “detailed and thoughtful” letter. He said he saw immense opportunities for deepening cooperation and laid emphasis on involving the youth in creating new avenues of cooperation.

Earlier, Burns told the media that Modi had “won a very strong mandate to reinvigorate India’s development, and its rise on the world stage”. He added: “America has a deep stake in India’s success and in Prime Minister Modi’s success.”

Obama is looking forward to Modi’s visit to the White House as it would be a “very valuable opportunity to renew the strategic partnership” and “renew our mutual determination to spur economic growth”, Burns said. id”Our two-way trade has reached nearly $100 billion a year but the truth is we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible,” he added.

Besides Kerry, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to visit India later this summer. An economic delegation led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets Arun M. Kumar will visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad during July 12-18. The team will hold talks with senior Indian officials on boosting commercial ties.

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