By Arun Kumar
Washington: The India-US partnership would continue to grow in its intensity regardless of the upcoming parliamentary elections in India next year or the losses suffered by Congress-led ruling coalition in the recent assembly elections.
This appeared to be the key outcome of Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh’s just concluded four day visit during which she held “exceedingly useful and very productive” discussions with top Obama administration officials and lawmakers from both Democratic and Republican parties.
“This is an ongoing process regardless of elections,” officials said noting that the India-US relationship had bipartisan support in both countries and had reached a level where the two sides can candidly discuss an impressive range of issues in depth.
Secretary of State John Kerry dropped by as Singh met his deputy William Burns and the new Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal despite the federal government taking the day off because of heavy snow Tuesday.
Singh also met White House Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James N. Miller, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel B. Poneman and Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
She had a telephonic conversation with Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who had to leave suddenly for Chicago for personal reasons.
On the Capitol Hill, she met with Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus as also chairmen and leading members of the Senate and House foreign affairs panels besides key Congressional aides from both Republican and Democratic parties.
As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki put it the meetings, coming as a follow-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s September summit meeting with President Barack Obama focused on “ways to deepen the US-India Strategic Partnership and consult on regional issues”.
As issues of concern to both sides in areas of trade and investment were discussed, sources said India conveyed to both administration officials and lawmakers its concerns about the Senate version of the immigration bill that would adversely affect Indian IT firms.
Singh also told officials what New Delhi was doing to address US business concerns mainly relating to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), compulsory licensing in pharmaceuticals and FDI.
On Afghanistan, sources said India welcomed a bilateral security agreement (BSA) between the US and Kabul and agreed that “it would be a good idea to convey” to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign it when he visits New Delhi next week.
On Pakistan, the US as always encouraged India to settle its differences with its neighbour.
Singh in turn is understood to have told her interlocutors that India would be happy to do so provided peace was maintained on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and there was progress in the trial of the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
At the State Department, asked about Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s proposal for NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan, Psaki said the US supported a “dialogue as a means for working through differences.”
But, she said, it was for India and Pakistan to decide “the purpose of their talks and whether they would support them”.
During talks with Singh, the US and India had also agreed to joint principles to strengthen India-US cooperation on training UN peacekeepers, developed with support from the Department’s Global Peace Operations Initiative, Psaki said.
The US also accepted India’s invitation to serve as a partner country for India’s technology summit and expo in New Delhi in the fall of 2014, “further intensifying our broad scientific cooperation”, she said.