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America can be India's best partner: Biswal

The US shares a special and unique friendship with India and can be its "best partner" in promoting peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, a senior Obama administration official has said.



Washington: The US shares a special and unique friendship with India and can be its "best partner" in promoting peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, a senior Obama administration official has said.

"America can be India's best partner. We are indeed, as the President has said, indispensable partner in promoting peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, " Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal said yesterday.

"Our friendship with India is special and unique and the growing US-India ties are important but not exclusive to the region," she said.

Biswal said the India-US relationship by its very nature cuts across every field of human endeavour and that is a reflection of the two societies and the convergence between the two cultures.

The progress in the relationship demonstrates that the US and India are not just natural partners, she said.

Describing the last month's Obama visit as "incredibly important and consequential one", Biswal said for the first time in India-US bilateral relationship there can be no doubt about the strength of the joint strategic vision between the two nations.

"We are drivers of growth across the region and around the world," she said, adding that the two countries are net provider of security in the Indian Ocean region.

These values are clearly reflected in the joint vision statement for the Asia Pacific region issued after Obama-Modi summit in New Delhi last month, she said.

Biswal said Obama's India visit marked "historic progress" on resolving some of the lingering challenges that previously were being experienced, including the civil nuclear agreement.

The establishment of a contact group by Obama and Modi after their September 2014 meeting at the White House set in motion the type of intense negotiations that allowed India and the US to achieve "breakthrough understanding" between the two governments on advancing civil nuclear cooperation, she said.

"We believe we have the requisite understanding on both sides to enable civil nuclear co-operation to move forward," she said.

"As we believe that some of these lingering challenges have been resolved and addressed, now it would be up to the countries to access for themselves, the business case scenarios and make their own decisions based on the commercial aspects, how to move forward," she said.

"We believe that the potential, which is a compelling one, in terms of how our industry can open up to the USD 40 billion worth of Indian civil nuclear power sector and bring electricity to 400 million people in India, who still have inadequate power access," she said.

Biswal said the India-US nuclear partnership would also bolster future energy security of India, by reducing its reliance on carbon intensive fuel sources.

She announced that the India US Clean Energy Finance Task Force would be launched later this month on the margins of the reinvest summit in New Delhi, which would be focusing on renewable energy.

"The Task Force would help to operationalise some of these commitments by helping overcome some of the strategic barriers to accelerating institutional and private financing in clean energy and renewable energy sources," she said.

Biswal said the US and India are committed to increase their bilateral trade five folds to match that of US and China.

Noting that it is not just India that would benefit from this increase in bilateral trade, she said the US too would benefit from this.

She said the bilateral investment treaty is in fundamental interest of the two countries.

Another sign of the elevated economic partnership is the expansion of the annual US-India Strategic Dialogue into a new high level Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.

"Fundamentally, this is a recognition between the two countries that India's economic transformation is a vital component of India's strategic rise.

"The United States is committed in supporting that economic transformation and partnering with India, American companies bring cutting edge technologies and best practices. We want to create pathways that allow the two economies to increasingly partner and collaborate," she said.

India and the US are collaborating in joint space exploration projects together, Biswal said, adding that the two countries are now working together on a host of issues.

"Just last week, our top scientists from NASA and ISRO met at the first face to face Mars Working Group. They discussed enhanced co-operation on Mars exploration including substantial coordinated observation analysis between our respective Mars missions,"she said.

Defense with emphasis on maritime security is another area of co-operation between the two countries.

"We also launched a knowledge partnership between US National Defense University and India's National Defense University to have stronger relationship between our military personnel and shape the strategic thinking between our two militaries in the years to come," she said.

"US India relationship does not come at the expense of other relationships in the region, either ours or Indians. We value our relationship with all countries of the Asia Pacific," she said.

Biswal said a joint working group has been created to implement the decisions made during the Obama visit.

"There is a firm commitment to continue the pace and ensure that we are fully utilising the potential and possibilities of this defining relationship of the 21st century," she said.

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