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Kerry Visit: Not Much Expected, Not Much Achieved
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Kanwal Sibal | Date:02 Aug , 2014 1 Comment
Kanwal Sibal
Former Foreign Secretary of India

The US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Minister for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

Not too much was expected from the just-concluded India-US strategic dialogue and not too much has resulted. Its importance lay in resuming and creating a congenial atmosphere for high level engagement after several US steps roiling India on the diplomatic, economic and trade fronts. To signal that the US was ready to engage the Modi government unreservedly, Kerry has tried to woo Shri Modi unselfconsciously by quoting his slogan of “sabke sath sabka vikas” approvingly more than once so as to disarm any personal rancour that they suspect may linger over the visa denial issue.

…would mean technology transfers and India’s absorption capacities; US companies are hardly likely to build highways, airports, ports, railways etc in India.

Our external affairs minister has qualified her discussions with Kerry “excellent” though this is not reflected in the announced outcomes. She said astutely that the relationship is a truly defining partnership and a strategic one “to the extent“ it takes care of our respective regional interests and contributes to security in our neighbourhood. Both sides “stand at a turning point“, she said and referred to the “latent potential” of the relationship -again phrases chosen with care. She spoke of scheduling the Ministerial Trade Policy Forum and other dialogue mechanisms to address outstanding trade and economic issues “that arise as a natural result of different perceptions“ -again striking a note of realism. She implicitly called US snooping of India as an unfriendly act and “un acceptable“. This needed to be said frankly, as such snooping is a serious diplomatic breach, and had the US been the victim, its reaction would have been severe in reprisals.

Kerry focused on the US agenda“to boost two-way trade, to support South Asia’s connectivity , to develop cleaner energy , to deepen our security partnership in the Asia Pacific and beyond.“ How US can help South Asian connectivity and why the security partnership excludes South Asian security is not clear. He acknowledged realistically that “we all have a lot of homework to do coming out of this meeting“. He speaks of specifics that could be put on the table for Shri Modi’s visit to Washington, but which? The US economic interests identified by him are in high-end manufacturing, infrastructure, healthcare and information technology . The first would mean technology transfers and India’s absorption capacities; US companies are hardly likely to build highways, airports, ports, railways etc in India. In the IT sector visa issues and movement of professionals remain.

The joint statement lists the areas of engagement, without breaking any new ground. It refers to India joining the export control organisations “in a phased manner“, which implies a delay in the process.

Kerry wants removal of obstacles such as “tariffs, or price controls, or preferential treatment for certain products“, issues on which no quick progress can be made. On Climate Change issues, the US is pressing India to accept legally binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions in order to create business opportunities in India for US technologies. While supporting Shri Modi’s focus on solar energy , Kerry has said elsewhere that India should become part of global supply chains and not impose local manufacturing, which India seeks in the solar energy sector and for which we have been dragged to the WTO.

The joint statement lists the areas of engagement, without breaking any new ground. It refers to India joining the export control organisations “in a phased manner“, which implies a delay in the process. On civil nuclear cooperation the joint statement, in deference to US sensitivities, is worded more positively than the situation warrants. The reference to India, the United States and Japan working together to build transport and trade connectivity , including by developing economic corridors“ to our east is significant geopolitically . On Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza, a language of the lowest denominator has been found.

All in all, the best we could say about the India-US strategic dialogue is: Kerry on.

Courtesy: Economic Times

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One thought on “Kerry Visit: Not Much Expected, Not Much Achieved

  1. I personally believe that US has maintained its position as a world leader by being extremely selfish. US had in the last century prioritized its interests and listed its preferred set of countries it wants to partner with to achieve each of these interests and has not waivered much. The catch has been that some of these countries would know their position in the US scheme of things only with time, meaning that the US has a history of allying with some countries only with the sole purpose of ensuring that those countries do not block the US agenda on a certain interest. Which means, they may announce a partnership to begin with but later change their stance once they have ensured the country has weakened enough to block US interests. The middle-east has already seen many such examples in the last 2 decades alone. Interestingly, there are countries like India that are clearly ignored by US even though they may seem as natural allies to the US. This leads us to believe that the US considers India as a potential competitor with world leadership in the future. India has the cultural & historical background and the present political mindset speaks volumes of our aspirations as a country to lead the world in every which way, without the hegemony tag associated with most of the world’s leading countries today including – China, US & Russia. If to lead one has to build an image that evokes fear then that area needs work in India, though it may be limited to (and rightly so!) ensuring that this fear is placed in the minds of those who deserve it – terrorists & their patrons – and not the world at large. The US may not be the best of allies for India in the long run as India may have to keep a close watch on them to ensure they do not block India’s way to progress as has been happening for decades. India would rather gain from partnering with its neighbors and other countries who share similar ideologies of democracy, humanity & inclusive economics.

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