Kerry says India, US can be indispensable partners, delivering on potential is key

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with United States Secretary of State John Kerry in New Delhi on July 31, 2014.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with United States Secretary of State John Kerry in New Delhi on July 31, 2014.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry today said the US and India could and should be indispensable partners for the 21st century but stressed that delivering on the potential of the moment was the key and that there was a lot of homework for both sides to do ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to Washington in September.
"The words are easy. It is the actions we need to take that will really define the relationship in the days ahead," he told journalists at a joint media interaction with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here after they co-chaired the Fifth India-US Strategic Dialogue here.
"And I think it is safe to say that I said to Foreign Minister that we all have a lot of homework to do coming out of this meeting. There are many bilateral initiatives that will continue, but clearly an importance to put specifics on the table for the trip of Prime Minister Modi to Washington in September to meet with President (Barack) Obama.
"I think we share a clear understanding of where we can begin. The new government’s plan forSabka Saath, Sabka Vikas – Together With All, Development For All – is a concept and a vision that is not unlike that expressed by President Obama and is one that we support wholeheartedly," he said.
Mr Kerry was joined at the dialogue by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, while the Indian team included Minister of State for Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.
Ms Swaraj said the two sides had held an "excellent discussion" on the main areas of their partenrship: security, energy, trade and investment, science and technology, regional and global issues.
"The extent to which our cooperation has an impact on the wellbeing of our people, our economies, and our respective regional and global interests makes ours a truly defining partnership. And the extent to which revitalised India-US ties contribute to peace, security and prosperity of our neighbourhood, the Asian region and beyond, makes our relationship truly strategic," she said.
Ms Swaraj said both sides recognised that they stood at an important turning point and that they could once again realise the latent potential of their partnership based on common fundamental values and converging long-term strategic interests.
"Secretary Kerry and Secretary Pritzker were generous in their assessment of what our new government will be able to do to realise the expectations of our people. We recognise that there is much hard work ahead to realise the people’s mandate in an election of hope," she said.
Ms Swaraj said she and her colleagues had underlined that they saw great potential for the US as a global partner. "We underlined our interest in seeing a much more robust American presence in the Indian economy: as investors, as trade partners, in skill development, in defence, and in science and technology.
We also recognised that the regional and global aspect of our strategic partnership has great value for both sides, especially in the current situation of global and regional flux. We are delighted that there is a growing global dimension in our partnership," she said.
They also agreed that the visit of US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to New Delhi next Friday was an imporant opportunity to energise the defence partnership and begin the process of giving it a new strategic content.
"We also recognised that the maturing of our strategic relationship has given both sides the capacity to treat issues where we diverge as an opportunity for further conversation and dialogue. Towards this end we discussed scheduling our long-pending commercial dialogue, our Ministerial Trade Policy Forum, and other vital dialogue mechanisms to address outstanding trade and economic issues that arise as a natural result of different perceptions," she said.
"Today at the conclusion of this 5th Strategic Dialogue, we can take satisfaction in the fact that within the few years since we raised our relationship to a strategic plane, our bilateral dialogue has an all-of-government character. The new energy that our meeting today has imparted to partner Departments and Ministries should lead to determined efforts to ensure that the summit meeting in September between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama raises our partnership to a new level," she said.
"While I am pleased at the current effort to build on the momentum of our elections, we can be truly satisfied if we sustain this effort to ensure the best possible outcomes from the summit this September and through the rest of the year," she said.
Mr Kerry said the US private sector was very eager to be a catalyst for India’s development and the US government would enthusiastically support those kinds of development efforts. 
"The opportunities are really clear and they are quite dramatic. American companies lead in key sectors that India wants to grow in – in high-end manufacturing, in infrastructure, in healthcare, and in information technology.
Still, we know we have a lot of work yet to do in breaking down barriers to trade and in encouraging the talent that we both have to be able to go to work. By limiting those obstacles which we talked about over the course of these two days - whether they are tariffs, or price controls, or preferential treatment for certain products in large influential markets - we can build a more competitive market as well as build the bridges of opportunity that our young people in both of our countries want so much. When ten million Indians enter the workforce each year, the Indian Government clearly understands this imperative," he said.
The two sides also discussed climate change. "There is no place where the challenges posed by climate change and the economic opportunities of renewable energy converge like they do in India today. We want to help India to be able to meet this challenge, to make the connections, and to be able to help supply clean electricity to the 400 million Indians who today live without power. I know this is a priority for the Prime Minister, and it is a priority that we are prepared to try to share," he said.
Mr Kerry, who had visited the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi earlier in the day, said he hoped to see Indian and American institutions coming together in a more formalised and productive way.
"Climate change and energy shortages are not something that might happen way off in the future. It is here with us now. Extreme weather, blackouts, scarce resources, all of these things endanger human health, prosperity, and they ultimately endanger security for all of us," he stressed.
"We have the capacity, we have the resources, we have the open and resilient societies that can help us compete and win in an interconnected world, and we have remarkable and talented citizens in both of our countries waiting to do so.
In the weeks to come we will take a series of concrete steps to pave the way for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington in September and hopefully, hopefully, to pave the way for a new chapter in the ties between our two great democracies," he said.
To a question, Ms Swaraj said she had raised the issue of alleged spying by US agencies on senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders. "Yes, I raised this issue with Secretary John Kerry when the matter was published in Indian newspapers. I have also conveyed to him that since our two countries consider each other as  friendly nations this act on the part of US authorities is completely unacceptable to us," she said.
Mr Kerry said that the US government did not discuss intelligence matters in public. "But let me just say very clearly, we value our bilateral relationship with India in all the ways that I just described. And we also value the sharing of information between each other regarding counterterrorism and other threats to both of our countries.
"We have had conversations, as the Minister has stated, with government officials about these reports and usually we try to have our intelligence communities work to resolve any questions or any differences that may exist. But let me say this, President Obama has undertaken a unique and unprecedented review that he ordered of all of our intelligence and intelligence gathering and activities. And unlike any prior President, he gave a speech in which he clearly articulated America’s approach going forward in the standards that we will apply.
We will continue to work actively with India wherever we see a threat to our shared interests, and we fully respect and understand the feelings expressed by the Minister," he said.
On WTO, Mr Kerry said the US felt that the agreement that was reached in Bali was "an agreement that importantly can provide for food security for India".
"We do not dismiss the concerns India has about large numbers of poor people who require some sort of food assurance and subsistence level. But we believe there is a way to provide for that that keeps faith with the WTO Bali agreement. And so, we are obviously encouraging our friends in India to try to find a path here where there is a compromise that meets both needs. And we think that is achievable, and we hope it is achievable," he said.
"With respect to the issue of the sanctions, the focus of our meetings here today is bilateral fundamentally and the ways US and India can grow the relationship with respect to trade, clean energy cooperation, counterterrorism, science and technology and so forth. Now, we would obviously welcome India joining in with us with respect to that. But it is up to them. It is India’s choice. India has its relationships. We support and welcome them in dealing with the challenge that Russia is presenting. But it is really up to India. It is not something that entered into the bilateral relationship in the context of today’s discussion," he said.
Ms Swaraj said that both she and Ms Sitharaman had raised the issue of immigration Bill No. 744. "But we are certainly concerned with the provisions which will affect the Indian IT industry, if the Bill is passed in the present form. I also told Secretary Kerry that it will give a very negative signal and that too at a time when India is opening up its economy for the foreign players," he said.
"We did talk about the Immigration Bill and it is a critical priority for President Obama. And we are very aware of the need to make sure that there are more people able to travel, more people able to become part of the commerce that we just talked about, all of these areas including education and so forth. But the way it left the Senate leaves that in need of some amending. The House has not taken it up yet. And it really appears as if they won’t certainly before the election which is in three months," Mr Kerry said.
"The Administration, President Obama would support some changes that will deal with some of the issues that you have just raised and other issues. But at the moment it does not appear this Bill will move in the next several months. One has to hope that after the election is over there may be the possibility of rebuilding support for it. It is a critical Bill for us in many many ways, way beyond those that you just articulated. President Obama would really like to see it done as a matter of fairness, as a matter of morality, as a matter of commercial and business interest, as a matter of family interest. There are many compelling reasons for why this needs to pass. And I am confident that at some point in time we will get appropriate immigration reform," he added.

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