A top US diplomat is headed to India to prepare the ground for their strategic dialogue ahead of the first summit meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reset India-US ties.
Deputy Secretary of William J. Burns “will be the highest-level Administration official to visit since the inauguration of the new Indian Government” headed by Modi, who for long had been persona non grata in Washington before his “resounding” electoral victory in May.
Burns, who will be in India July 10-11, “will discuss the full range of bilateral issues – including economic, energy, and security cooperation – with senior Indian officials,” a State Department announcement said Tuesday.
“This trip is an opportunity to further strengthen and deepen this important bilateral relationship,” it said.
Burn’s trip to New Delhi is expected to be followed by a visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry later this month for the India-US Strategic Dialogue with the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj although it’s Washington’s turn to host it.
Reflecting bipartisan support for stronger India-US ties, John McCain, Republican senator and Obama’s rival in the 2008 presidential election, who visited India earlier this month also conveyed to Modi Washington’s keen desire to work with him.
The US was much behind its European partners in reaching out to Modi in the run up to India’s parliamentary victory, but his “resounding” victory quickly ended US hesitation.
As soon as the results were announced Obama made a call to congratulate “candidate Modi” and invited him to the US and Secretary of State John Kerry “echoed” the invitation.
But surprisingly Modi too was quick to accept the invitation proving wrong doomsayers who expected a rough road ahead given the 2005 US revocation of Modi’s tourist/business visa for his alleged inaction during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Thus “Washington has largely been pleasantly surprised at how responsive the new Indian Government has been to American outreach,” as Richard M. Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in US India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, put it.
Another US expert believes that recognising India as one of its most important strategic partnerships, the Obama administration is keen to push boldly on expanding the envelope of cooperation with Modi government.
The Obama administration is looking forward to working closely with Modi and a successful visit to Washington by the prime minister in September, according to Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.