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Kerry ends India trip, rifts remain

US Secretary of State John Kerry concluded his three-day visit to India after holding talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (August 1).

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State John Kerry concluded his three-day visit to India after holding talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (August 1). The visit represents America's first high-level engagement with the new Indian government and lays the groundwork for Mr Modi's scheduled visit to Washington next month.

Mr Kerry also met Indian officials during the trip. But after the meetings, the two countries still face hurdles, particularly related to trade and investment. Mr Kerry was hoping to build bridges with Mr Modi who was once shunned by Washington.

The US diplomat held extensive discussions with Indian officials during the visit and signalled a new direction in India-US relations by offering to be a partner in Mr Modi's vision for economic development.

Mr Kerry said: "Now that India's new government has won an historic mandate to deliver change and reform, together we have a singular opportunity to help India to meet its challenge, 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."

But he conceded the countries have work to do on a raft of issues, namely deadlocks looming over US visa restrictions, a World Trade Organisation pact and patent rights. Mr Kerry was also reminded that US surveillance in India, including on party leaders, was unacceptable.

A document published last month showed Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party was one of the political parties the US National Security Agency spied on.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said: "I told them that Indians were very angry when the report came out. I informed him of their fury. I told them that both countries consider each other as friends and friends don't snoop on each other.This is unacceptable to us."

Putting that issue aside, the two sides announced plans to step up cooperation in infrastructure development, energy security, defence and science and technology.

Although there are still a series of contentious issues that need to be settled between the world's two largest democracies, Mr Kerry's visit reflects a change of attitude in Washington's approach, not only towards India but also to a right-wing government led by a man refused entry into the US less than a decade ago.
 

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