WASHINGTON, D.C.: United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry heads to India on Sunday (Monday in Manila) calling for the two countries’ relations to achieve their “full potential,” amid charges that years of momentum have ground to a halt.
Kerry will spend three days in New Delhi on his first visit to India as the top US diplomat, where he plans to discuss cooperation on education and climate change and take up concerns over plans for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In a video message ahead of his visit, Kerry said President Barack Obama’s administration held a “firm belief that a strong India is in America’s national interests.”
“The United States not only welcomes India as a rising power, we fervently support it,” Kerry said.
“This is the time for both the United States and India to challenge ourselves in order to reach higher, in order to strengthen the bonds that we share, and to realize the full potential of our partnership.”
Kerry pointed to Obama’s support for New Delhi as a permanent member of the UN Security Council—one of the emerging power’s top foreign policy goals—and his own efforts as a senator to approve a nuclear cooperation agreement.
The accord, which ended longstanding opprobrium over India’s nuclear program, was heralded by Prime Minister Man-mohan Singh and then President George W. Bush as the start of a deeper relationship between the world’s two largest democracies after estrangement during the Cold War.
But even some erstwhile champions of better ties have grown frustrated. US business leaders have urged the Obama administration to threaten retaliation against India over what they charge are unfair trading practices.
India has angered foreign companies by championing generic drugs—which advocates say save lives in poor nations—and by refusing to grant nuclear operators the liability protections they seek in case of accidents.
India in turn has been alarmed by proposals in the US Congress to curb visas to high-tech workers as well as US plans to end the unpopular Afghanistan war next year and negotiate with the Taliban, who are sworn enemies of India.
“We would like to get from the secretary a better idea of what the American plans are” in Afghanistan, a senior government official said in New Delhi.