Ahead of Modi-Obama meet, five-fold boost to trade ties

RSTV Bureau
Washington: Secretary of State John Kerry, second from right, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, second from left, and Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, left, arrive for a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015. Photo - PTI

Washington: Secretary of State John Kerry, second from right, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, second from left, and Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, left, arrive for a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.
Photo – PTI

In what could be a boost to Indo-US ties ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s US visit and subsequent bilateral meet with US President Barack Obama next week, the two countries decided to further deepen their security and economic co-operation. Chairing the first India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue on Tuesday, Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John Kerry decided to increase the bilateral trade five-fold to USD 500 billion.

In the post-meet joint statement, the two leaders emphasised on combating terrorism, reinforcing commercial ties and securing access to US inward investment and technology.

Apprising the press pack at the joint press conference in Washington post the strategic meet, Ms Swaraj said the joint statement reiterates commitment of the two countries on common approach against terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Haqqani network and the D-Company. The Union External Affairs also sought Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

“We (India and the US) reiterate that the threat posed by al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company (Dawood Ibrahim), Haqqani network and other regional groups undermines stability in South Asia. And we call to Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack,” Swaraj told reporters.

On his part, Secretary of State Mr. Kerry affirmed saying, “We have renewed our joint commitment to maritime security, international law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions”.

The dialogue between the two also aimed at making the Indo-US ties a “defining relationship” of the 21st century and increase bilateral trade from USD 100 billion to USD 500 billion a year.

Washington: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John Kerry during  India-US Strategic & Commercial Dialogue at the US State Depertment in Washington DC, September 22, 2015. Photo - PTI

Washington: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John Kerry during India-US Strategic & Commercial Dialogue at the US State Depertment in Washington DC, September 22, 2015.
Photo – PTI

“President Obama and our entire administration are strongly committed to this relationship, to this friendship. And President Obama looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Modi next week in New York,” John Kerry said at a joint press conference.

“We have concluded a very significant Memorandum of Understanding on energy security, climate change, and clean energy… It is clearly one of the most fruitful, one of the most productive bilateral relationships that I have the privilege to work on,” Mr. Kerry added briefing the press about the meeting.

Lauding the ties between two nations, Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj added that the two sides talked about creating new substantive underpinnings to deepen bilateral engagement, including in the fields of defence, security, cyber, energy, climate change, science and technology, space, health, and other areas of economic development.

“We shared our strategic priorities, interests, and concerns on issues of mutual interest, including security and counter-terrorism, confidences in India’s Act East policy, and the US rebalance in Asia,” Ms Swaraj said.

Among other decisions, Sushma-Kerry strategic meet also deliberated on the issue of elevating the US, India, Japan trilateral partnership to the ministerial level and decided to hold its first meeting next week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

On asked if the Dialogue was aimed at countering China’s growing influence, the two leaders unanimously replied that “China did not even figure” in their bilateral discussions.

“This is a dialogue to deepen and strengthen our bilateral cooperation, our bilateral ties and this dialogue has not been charted to create wider influence in any part of the world or China,” the Union External Affairs minister said.

Prime Minister will be landing in US this week for the UN General Assembly marking 70th anniversary of the world body. After the historic UN session, PM Narendra Modi will be holding a bilateral meet with US President Barack Obama.

(With inputs from the PTI)