News / Asia

Kerry Looks to Strengthen Ties During India Visit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on his way to Doha, June 21, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on his way to Doha, June 21, 2013.
Aru Pande
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to India next week to head the latest round of strategic dialogue between two of the world's largest democracies.

In a video message to India ahead of his trip, Kerry repeated President Barack Obama’s sentiment that the U.S.-India friendship is one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

Kerry cited key areas of collaboration that are already taking place between the two countries. “From higher education to clean energy, from counterterrorism to space science, we are seizing new opportunities to work together, and in doing so, we’re increasing the prosperity and security of both our peoples," he said. "The U.S. and India share a strong enduring commitment to Afghanistan’s peace and prosperity.”

The secretary pointed growing bilateral trade, which he said has increased five-fold in the last decade to $86 billion in 2011.

But analysts said the U.S.-Indian relationship is not without its challenges.

While trade has increased in the defense sector, Washington has called for greater access for its goods to the Indian market.  For its part, New Delhi wants a friendlier U.S. immigration policy that will make it easier for highly skilled Indian workers to enter the American job market.

Former Indian ambassador and United Nations special envoy S.D. Muni said these issues are not new and must be worked through in order for the relationship to reach a higher level.

“The potential of Indo-US relations depends on all these legitimate concerns to be smoothened and harnessed, because in no way have the India and U.S. reached their full potential. In fact, Indian-Chinese trade is much more than Indo-U.S. trade and U.S.-Chinese trade is huge as compared to Indo-U.S. trade,” stated Muni.

A group of American lawmakers recently joined the National Association of Manufacturers and other U.S. business organizations in urging President Obama to take action against the Indian government for what they said are discriminatory trade practices.

In a letter to Obama, U.S. business groups refer to Indian court rulings, which they say have repeatedly ignored internationally recognized rights, including “denying, breaking, or revoking patents for nearly a dozen lifesaving medications.”
The Indian Supreme Court in April rejected pharmaceutical company Novartis’ attempt to patent a new version of a cancer drug - a landmark decision that allows Indian companies to continue making cheaper, generic versions of the medication.
Bharat Karnad with the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research said the issue will likely come up during next week’s strategic dialogue.  “The problem is, of course, the Indian court's ruling that in terms of life-saving drugs and medicines that the patent laws can be breached, because that is more important," he said. "[The court found] it’s more important to save lives than to ensure profits for American pharmaceutical concerns [companies]. That is a difficult issue, and I am not sure what the resolution is considering the stance that the Indian courts have taken.”
Karnad said the U.S. and India should focus on the bigger picture - and collaborate closely as both nations look to increase influence and investment in the Asia-Pacific.

The pivot towards Asia is one of the Obama administration’s key foreign policy initiatives, and India, for many years, has also had a “look East” policy.  Karnad recalls former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said during a 2011 visit to India that the South Asian nation should not just look East, but “engage East and act East.”

“If India were to do that and firm up its security cooperation with the Southeast Asian nations, with Taiwan, the Philippines and all those other countries, Vietnam in particular, and have the larger overarching structural link-ups with United States, Japan and the far-east -- then you have a very viable security architecture,” stated Karnad.

Kerry on Sunday travels from Doha to New Delhi, where he will give a policy speech. He chairs the fourth annual strategic dialogue and holds talks with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid before heading to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

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Comment Sorting
by: Mohanan from: Chennai
June 23, 2013 5:03 AM
Other than business deals, America and India can make rapid and vast changes in the world so that peace will prevail in the earth where we dwell on it. For example, lust on others land, encroachment, maritime insecurity, illegal demand of certain group of people and ultimately they becomes terrorists. Therefore, america and India along with allies should join hands and do all kinds of options.

by: Mohan from: Chennai
June 23, 2013 4:36 AM
Business relationship alone will not help both the countries to cement the relationship. There are many unresolved problems worldwide, which both U.S. and India can jointly solve. For example, maritime freedom, lust on others land, hierarchy, trying illegal domination over other countries etc. etc are the top most priority. America and India should jointly look into all those and solve it so that peace will prevail in earth.

by: Gary Zaetz
June 22, 2013 1:13 PM
On Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake pointed out on the Facebook site for the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs that Secretary of State Kerry will be visiting India from June 23- 25. The announcement also asked visitors the following inane question: “Secretary of State John Kerry will be traveling to India this weekend. Can you recommend some foods he should try while he is there?” , rather than asking people what he thought he should actually do for the American people while he is there. Here is the response I posted to that site: “The American people, Mr. Blake, should be more concerned with what he will do to further American interests in India during his visit than anything as frivolous and unimportant as what he is going to be eating. For instance, I'm more interested in what he is going to do to get the Indian Government to finally allow expedited recovery of the remains of 400 American soldiers lost in India during World War II !!"...Gary Zaetz, nephew of 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz, whose remains at his documented World War II crash site in India have not been permitted by the Indian Government to be recovered, in violation of US-India bilateral agreements and international humanitarian law.

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