New Delhi, June 10:
The signals from both India and the US are loud and clear – engagement in every sector, and fast. Pushing back the slackness that had crept into the important strategic relationship over the last few years, the new Indian government signaled its keenness to “move forward as early as possible” to boost ties with the US.
The US too gave clear signals before India’s general elections, which gave a thumping mandate to the Narendra Modi-led BJP, that it is “very keen to move forward and get the relationship back on track”, said sources here Tuesday.
As part of establishing contact, the US pointsperson for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal, was in India and on Monday met senior Indian officials.
Biswal, who met Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, and other senior officials, including joint secretaries Vikram Doraiswami and Ajay Bisaria, conveyed that the “US is extremely keen to engage with the new government of India, and will be guided by the pace and direction the new government takes… All doors are open to engage, and whatever areas that India is willing to move on they are okay with,” the source added.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj “made it clear” that they want to move forward on the relationship “as early as possible”. Modi has also accepted an invite from US President Barack Obama for a bilateral summit in Washington in September.
Modi has said in interviews during the election that individual incidents should not be allowed to cloud bilateral relations – referring to the visa ban on him by the US in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The boost to bilateral ties also holds promise for the India-US Defence Dialogue, that had been stalled for the past two years, to be held again. India is also keen to restart the defence dialogue, especially now with a new government with a new defence minister. The US, which will host the dialogue, too has a new team in defence in place.
India would be along with the US in the Trilateral with Japan on June 23-24 in New Delhi.
Besides, Sushma Swaraj would be meeting her counterpart US Secretary of State John Kerry in the US for the bilateral Strategic Dialogue. “The next three months would see pretty high pace of momentum in Indo-US ties,” well informed sources said.
The Modi government has indicated that it wants to push trade and economic partnership with the US and “get the energy back into the relationship”.
The US is keen to increase bilateral trade from the around $100 billion to $500 billion. However decisions on clearance of projects and capacity would have to wait till the budget of the new government.
The Devyani Khobragade incident, which led to a stand-off in relations, is being sorted out through “low key dialogues”.
“Enough ink and blood has been spilt on the issue. Both sides are finding ways to resolve the issues it threw up, and also that such incidents do not recur, said one of the sources, not wishing to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issues.
Sushma Swaraj has made clear that the national policy on foreign policy remains – only the pace and style would be different.
On the civil nuclear deal, an official said that US nuclear power company Westinghouse has been given a formal letter of offer in December. The process to operationalize the deal is “moving forward in small packages,” the source said, adding that India’s civil nuclear liability law “is still an issue”.
Both sides are on the same page on Afghanistan as “no one wants to see the return of extremism. We want stability and settled government… Everyone is looking to invest in stability in Afghanistan.”