Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sushma Swaraj-John Kerry talks today India responds with hyperbole to Kerry overture


New Delhi: The Modi government is looking at the two-day India-US strategic dialogue starting here on Wednesday between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and US secretary of state John Kerry in a superlatively positive sense.

Foreign office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the scheduled meetings between Swaraj and Kerry are “expected to explore new frontiers”, “enhance convergencies between the two countries” and also “explore transformative initiatives.” Those are hyperbolic phrases by diplomatic standards, and it shows that the Modi government is keeping its mind open with regard to the US, and it does not carry any baggage with regard to the US stance towards Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat, and the denial of visa to him post-2002 Gujarat riots.

The US too on its part seems to have taken note of the Lok Sabha election result of May this year. Kerry had waxed eloquent about the Modi government and applauded it saying, “India’s new government has won an historic mandate to deliver change and reform,” at a speech he delivered at the Centre for American Progress in Washington be fore he left for New Delhi. He went all out to support the Modi vision: “ The new Indian Government’s plan, “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, together with all, development for all – that’s a concept, a vision that we want to support.” And he has connected it with what US is looking for in India: “We believe it’s a great vision, and our private sector is eager to be a catalyst in India’s economic revitalization.”

The two sides then are approaching the first high level contact between the two countries in a positive state of mind as reflected in the statements of the spokesperson and of Kerry. The meeting is also seen as a preparation for Modi’s visit to the US where he will be attending the UN General Assembly meeting followed by a trip to Washington at the invitation of president Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, there will be an hour-long meeting between Swaraj and Kerry followed by a two-hour delegation level talks between the delegations of the two countries. Swaraj is hosting a dinner which will be preceded by a media interaction. Kerry will also be calling on prime minister Narendra Modi, finance minister Arun Jaitley and national security adviser Ajit Doval on Thursday.

In response to a question about Modi’s Washington itinerary, the spokesperson said that this is not an event but a process and the Swaraj-Kerry meeting will be explore the possibilities. It is not all hunky-dory between the two countries after the high of Manmohan Singh-George Bush years and the signing of the Indian-US civil nuclear deal. Ever since Obama entered the White House in 2009, the relations between the two countries nosedived. Two of the contentious issues that confront Swaraj and Kerry are the impasse over public stock holdings for purposes food security, and the Civil Nuclear Liablity Bill.

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