US secretary of state John Kerry on Thursday signalled a new energy and direction in India-US ties by offering to partner in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “historic mandate for change” and vision of economic development.
India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj returned the warmth, but not without bluntly reminding him that US spying in India, including on her party leaders, was “completely unacceptable”.
Kerry and Swaraj chaired the India-US dialogue and set in motion a process for Modi’s visit to the US in September.
Kerry, who also met with defence and finance minister Arun Jaitley and national security adviser Ajit Doval earlier in the day, held a marathon meeting with Swaraj — first hour in a restricted format (one-on-one), then at the delegation level, and finally over a working dinner.
“India and the US are indispensable partners in 21st century. There are incredible possibilities in our relationship,” Kerry said. “‘Sab ka saath sab ka vikas’ is a policy we support very eagerly. It is not unlike Obama’s policy.”
Swaraj said India saw “great potential in the US as our global partner”.
Asked if she raised the issue of surveillance of BJP leaders in 2010 by the US National Security Agency (NSA), a fact that US whistleblower Edward Snowden had revealed, she said, “I raised this issue with Secretary Kerry. I told him when this news had appeared in the papers, Indians expressed their anger. I want to make you aware of that anger, I told him.”
Swaraj said she had told Kerry, “It will not be acceptable to us if one friendly country spies on another friendly country.”
Replying to the concerns, Kerry said, “We value sharing of information between each other regarding counter-terrorism and other threats to both countries. Usually, we try to have our intelligence communities work to resolve differences that may exist.”
The two sides have decided to step up cooperation in skill-upgrade, infrastructure development and science and technology — which happen to be Modi’s focus too. Nudging India to open up more, Kerry said, “American companies lead in sectors which India wants to grow. We need to break down barriers in trade.”
A joint statement issued after the meeting said: “The two sides recognised that the decisive mandate provided by the Indian people to their new government provided a unique opportunity to re-energise this relationship. They expressed confidence that the summit meeting between PM Modi and President Obama in Washington DC in September would generate new dynamism in the relationship.”