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US, India handle differences maturely: Finer

By, New Delhi
Dec 05, 2023 12:42 AM IST

Finer called on external affairs minister S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval during the visit.

Reaffirming America’s continued commitment to the strategic relationship with India, US principal deputy national security adviser (PDNSA) Jonathan Finer visited New Delhi on Monday to review progress on the bilateral initiative on critical and emerging technologies (ICET), committed to deepening the tech partnership at a public event, and said the two countries have “differences” but also the “maturity” to handle those differences in a “constructive” manner.

US Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer (right) with Vikram Misri, Deputy National Security Adviser. (ANI)
US Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer (right) with Vikram Misri, Deputy National Security Adviser. (ANI)

Finer said that his conversations in Delhi, especially with his counterpart, Indian deputy NSA Vikram Misri, had crystallised for him President Joe Biden’s statement that no partnership is more “consequential” for the future than the India-US partnership. “And no aspect of this partnership is more consequential in shaping the future than technology and innovation,” Finer said at the Global Technology Summit, hosted by Carnegie India in partnership with the ministry of external affairs (MEA).

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The PDNSA’s visit comes in the wake of a US Department of Justice indictment which charges an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, for allegedly plotting to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist who India has designated as a terrorist but who happens to be a dual American-Canadian citizen, on American soil. The indictment alleges that Gupta was acting on the instructions of an Indian government employee involved in security affairs. India has acknowledged receiving inputs on the issue from the US, said this isn’t government policy, and set up a high-level investigation committee to examine the issue.

Given the speculation about the impact of the controversy on the India-US relationship, Finer’s visit and public statements indicate that the US is keen to not let it affect the momentum in the strategic partnership with India. Finer called on external affairs minister S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval during the visit. After the meeting, Jaishankar tweeted, “Useful exchange of views on the global situation. Discussed taking our bilateral cooperation forward.”

Without referring to the controversy, Finer, in his public remarks, acknowledged that the two countries have a “complicated history”, and in the past, they have not been fully aligned and not found it easy to be economic partners or be on the same page on geopolitical issues.

But Finer said that the most important step forward had been the recognition that there was more that connected the two countries than divided them. He said the two countries won’t agree on “everything” and there were issues that remained till the “present day”. But nodding at the bipartisan support for the relationship in the US, Finer said, “We work through differences in a constructive manner without derailing cooperation.”

In a subsequent question on differences over Ukraine, Finer, while saying there were issues around Ukraine which both countries agreed on while having different viewpoints on other issues, claimed that the US and India have a “mature relationship”, they identify opportunities and pursue them, and referred to ICET as well as Quad as examples of cooperation. “Even on issues that are most challenging, we can work through it constructively”.

Finer is a key figure in the US national security council (NSC). As NSA Jake Sullivan’s deputy, he has a global mandate, but he is expected to play an increasingly influential role in monitoring Indo-Pacific affairs, as Kurt Campbell, the current NSC Indo-Pacific coordinator moves to the State Department as deputy secretary.

In a statement on his visit, MEA said that Finer and Misri “reviewed key bilateral issues and exchanged views on regional and global developments”. They undertook a “comprehensive mid-term review” of (iCET), especially around tech value chains, semiconductors, quantum, Artificial Intelligence (Al) and High-Performance Computing (HPC), defence innovation, space, and advanced telecommunications.

The statement added that India and the US had agreed to expand the scope of ICET to include “biotechnology, critical minerals and rare earths processing technologies, digital connectivity and digital public infrastructure, and advanced materials”. Finer and Misri also affirmed the “importance of easing regulations to facilitate high-tech collaborations, and transfer of technology”, with their discussions focused on tapping synergies between domestic initiatives.

In his public comments, Finer also called ICET one of the most significant frameworks of cooperation in the history of the bilateral relationship which was focused on delivering outcomes. He referred to the GE jet engine deal, semiconductor initiatives, space collaboration between Nasa and Isro, efforts in the US Congress to lower export control barriers on computing, and telecom as specific areas where progress had already been made, while suggesting that the next chapter of tech collaboration involved revisiting old assumptions and modernising bureaucratic and regulatory frameworks.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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