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US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that Washington and New Delhi are on the verge of a “transformative moment in our partnership” ahead of his visit to India this week.
“The United States and India can and should be indispensable partners for the 21st Century, and that is, I assure you, the way we approach the Modi government,” Kerry said in a speech delivered at the Centre for American Progress think tank in Washington on Monday.
Kerry’s visit to India, followed by a visit to New Delhi by US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel next month, marks a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in September.
The official visits are also meant to iron out any sticking points created in the wake of the arrest of ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who in December was accused of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her New York City housekeeper.
Khobragade was granted immunity in early January and departed the US, but the handling of the affair by the State Department sparked a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Washington.
The Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) at the time, Shivshankar Menon, had described the treatment meted out to the diplomat as “barbaric”.
At the height of the affair, Kerry expressed regret over the handling of the arrest of Khobragade in a phone call with Menon.
But Kerry will also hope to reach out to New Delhi over revelations last year that the National Security Agency in Washington had been spying on communications in India.
On July 2, New Delhi summoned a top US diplomat after reports that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was targeted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in 2010.
Reacting strongly to the reports, India has said it was “totally unacceptable” that an Indian organisation or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon. India also sought an assurance from the US that it will not happen again.
The now ruling party, the BJP, was then in the opposition when the agency got the nod for spying.
India also noted that it had raised the issue with the US administration in Washington and the Embassy in New Delhi in July and November last year when reports emerged that NSA had spied upon individuals and entities and said it was still “awaiting a response from American on this”.
India had reacted sharply when the reports of snooping by NSA came to light after revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year.
Kerry’s visit, Washington hopes, will put back on track the India-US relationship in accordance to what the Obama administration has said could be “one of the most defining partnerships of the 21st century”.
On Monday, Kerry said that India’s new government had won a historic mandate to deliver change and reform and, that the US now had a “singular opportunity to help India to be able to meet that challenge”.
“This is a potentially transformative moment in our partnership with India, and we’re determined to deliver on the strategic and historic opportunities that we can create together.”