India, US trade talks begin; Kerry says Obama keen to meet Modi

  • IANS, Washington
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2015 21:49 IST

The first strategic and commercial dialogue between India and the US began in Washington on Tuesday ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with President Barack Obama. The focus the dialogue is on boosting trade ties and enhancing regional security.

US secretary of state John Kerry said that President Obama is very much looking forward to meeting PM Modi at the United Nations next week.

The two sides would be discussing some of the most complicated issues of the day, said Kerry as he and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj led their high-level delegations at the dialogue at the State Department.

Noting that Obama and Modi had elevated the dialogue from strategic to strategic and commercial to boost their commercial ties during the US president's January visit to India, Sushma Swaraj said she was very hopeful that the dialogue would be very productive and meaningful.

Outlining their priorities, Kerry noted that the two sides had set a goal of boosting their bilateral trade five fold to $500 billion in the next five years.

The two sides planned to have a robust discussion on issues including counter-terrorism, Indian Ocean, maritime security, South Asian challenges, non-proliferation and climate change.

The tone for the dialogue ahead of Modi's third summit meeting with President Obama within a year next week was set at a business conclave Monday night with US Vice President Joe Biden saying: "Our goal is to become India's best friend."

"The President and I, and the entire administration believe that the India-US relationship will be a relationship that will go a long way in defining the 21st century," he said said addressing the 40th Leadership summit of US-India Business Council (USIBC).

There was so much potential for trade and investment between the two countries, Biden said but more reforms were needed. The US, he said, will do everything to support Modi's reforms.

Sushma Swaraj, in turn, said the India-US relationship "is defined by natural synergy of our democracies".

"We have harnessed commonalities between our two countries to further bilateral priorities in several areas, including defence and security, countering terrorism and extremism, clean energy and environmental protection, science and technology and space," she said.

"Our joint effort will help make India-US partnership as President Barrack Obama had said, one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," she said.

Earlier, Kerry said US and India have entered a new era marked by commercial ties, a deep well of affection, and genuine warmth.

Expressing support for Modi's plan to help India's economy become more reliant on renewable sources of power, he said "it is absolutely critical in the end on pure economic terms".

Describing the dialogue as "one the most important that we have with any country on the planet", Kerry said: "We are the countries of innovation and opportunity. We think alike. We have an ability to be able to build this future."

"Although differences of ideology have separated us in the past, we are in the end, and I think that's what brings you here, the most natural of partners," Kerry said.

Earlier on Monday the US-India CEO Forum, the primary mechanism for engaging the US and Indian private sectors, had its meeting at the Commerce Department. Its recommendations would be announced Tuesday.

Other engagements on the sidelines of the strategic and commercial dialogue include an official level India-US Health Dialogue and a meeting of India-US Joint Working Group on Climate Change.

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