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India-US ties battle 'oversold' tag

world Updated: Jun 11, 2012 02:15 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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India and the US will begin a week of meetings on Monday, with officials from both sides trying hard to dispel the notion of a relationship weighed down by hype.

Has the relationship been "overhyped" or "oversold", the moderator asked Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao at one of the many events in the run up to the dialogue.

"I have conscientiously objected to these formulae," she said, adding, "I see the extent and depth of the dialogue and cooperation happening between the two countries."

India and the US will hold their third annual strategic dialogue here next week, co-chaired by external affairs minister SM Krishna and secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Many more meetings would take place around the dialogue on subjects ranging from science and tech to health, economy and trade.

Officials on both sides contend the relationship couldn't be better, listing out, for one, the large number of high-level exchanges between the two countries. "It's become routine in Delhi to have senior US officials come over," said US ambassador to India Nancy Powell, at the same event as Rao.

US secretary of defence Leon Panetta was in India last week. Secretary of state Clinton was there in May, and treasury secretary Tim Geithner would follow later this month. And yet, there are those who ask if this relationship was oversold.

They cite the rejection of bids by US firms for the MMRCA deal, civil nuclear deal, India's reluctance on Iran sanctions and stalled market and financial sector reforms.

Rich Verma, a former state department official, had said there was a sense earlier that the US and India might be marching lock-step globally.

That didn't happen apparently, not on Libya, not on Syria for a while and not on Iran, according to some past and current US officials, congressional aides and experts.

"But they fail to see that India would be acting in its own interests," said an US official, "not necessarily agreeing with the US all the time."