US & India to ‘Kiss and Make Up’

(Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed for improving U.S. ties during a meeting with Senator John McCain in New Delhi on Thursday, as the two countries seek to patch up their differences and boost their economic relationship.

The treatment of an Indian diplomat arrested in New York in December triggered a serious spat between the two countries and was widely blamed for the resignation of the U.S. ambassador to India.

The Obama administration has been seeking to revive ties since Modi’s election in May, seeing India as a key strategic counter-balance in Asia to an increasingly assertive China.

Modi “conveyed his desire to further deepen and expand the strategic partnership,” a statement from the Indian government said.

It said that he hoped for a “forward looking, result-oriented visit” to the United States in September when he is due to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

McCain, who told the Senate last week that Washington should seek to help India’s economic and military development, spoke of high expectations about a new momentum in India’s economic growth under the new government. There was no mention in the statement of defense deals.

Both governments have signaled they are keen to ramp up bilateral trade, which stands at about $100 billion annually and is considered to be below potential due to disputes over protectionism and intellectual property rights.

McCain’s visit comes at an awkward time – just days after reports that the U.S. National Security Agency was authorized to spy on Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in 2010, when the party was in the opposition.

On Wednesday, foreign ministry summoned a senior U.S. envoy in Delhi and said it had sought an assurance that the surveillance would not happen in the future.

The government statement of their remarks released after the McCain-Modi meeting did not mention the snooping row.

Modi was denied a visa in 2005 for travel to the United States following religious riots in 2002 while he was a state chief minister. Even so, he has responded positively to the U.S. advances and shown no resentment publicly.

In addition to discussing the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, Modi emphasized that the fight against terror should be a global priority, the statement said.


It appears that Narendra Modi’s visa problems with the US have been solved (one might recall that he was denied a visa in the past due to pressure from groups who held him responsible for not containing the massacre of mainly Muslims in Godhra, Gujarat while he was Chief Minister of the state). Now, as Prime Minister, Mr. Modi has accepted U.S. President Barack Obama’s invitation for a visit to Washington and is expected to travel for a meeting in September, local media reports said Thursday.

The invitation from Mr. Obama caps a period of rapprochement by Western governments and leaders toward Modi, who was shunned for years after communal riots in the state of Gujarat, of which he was chief minister, claimed the lives of 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in 2002. In recent months, as Modi ascended politically within India and, with the help of a pro-business campaign platform, led his party to a landslide victory in the national elections to claim power in New Delhi, international attitudes toward him, who is also widely regarded as a divisive leader in the country, have softened.

At the meeting in Washington, Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama are expected to discuss issues ranging from bilateral trade to security issues in the region, according to the Times of India, while the Hindustan Times reported that Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Indian ambassador to the U.S., is scheduled to visit New Delhi on June 8 to consult with the external affairs ministry and the prime minister’s office, and brief Modi on how to take the relationship with the U.S. forward.

While Mr. Modi has expressed his intention to open up sections of the Indian economy to foreign investment to rejuvenate growth and create jobs, the Obama administration has also reportedly set a goal of increasing annual trade with India to $500 billion. Washington also views India as a crucial geopolitical ally to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

“All pending bilateral issues will be discussed in the one-day meeting as Modi is keen to push the relationship forward for its economic returns for India,” a senior external affairs ministry official said, the Hindustan Times reported.

During his trip to the U.S., Mr. Modi is also expected to visit the U.N. General Assembly in New York, reports said.


The U.S. and India are eager to continue growing bilateral ties despite recent reports that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on India’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, in 2010.

India reacted strongly after The Washington Post reported Monday that the NSA had spied on the BJP, which is now India’s ruling party. The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had summoned U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and demanded an assurance that the incident would not be repeated. The report also led to a cancellation of a press conference Wednesday by Sen. John McCain, who is meeting senior Indian leaders in the run-up to talks between Mr. Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in September.

“We have a deep and broad partnership with India. We will discuss any concerns that are – we need to discuss through our private diplomatic channels. And obviously, that is already ongoing,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokesperson said in a briefing Wednesday, adding: “We look forward to continuing discussion on a full range of bilateral and regional issues.”

She added that the Obama administration has taken steps to address the NSA spying issue. Last month, the House of Representatives also curbed funding to organizations like the CIA and NSA to put an end to the warrantless collection of data, including personal conversations, of U.S. citizens.

According to The Post report, the NSA was also allowed to spy on Lebanon’s Amal, the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator of Venezuela, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian National Salvation Front and the Pakistan People’s Party.

“He’s (Obama) instructed his national security team as well as the intelligence community to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust moving forward,” Psaki said, in the briefing.

Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry, said according to Mint, a local newspaper, “We have, as governments, already communicated to the government of the United States… We have also asked the US government if such intrusions have indeed been authorized and have taken place. Our view is, should this have happened, these are highly objectionable.”

Mr. McCain, met Mr. Modi Thursday, reportedly told the U.S. Senate before his trip to India: “Our concern is simply that India does realize its full potential—for the United States has a stake in India’s success. Indeed, a strong, confident, and future-oriented India is indispensable for a vibrant US-India strategic partnership.”

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