John Kerry meets Arun Jaitley ahead of strategic dialogue

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived here on Wednesday to re-energise the bilateral ties and to narrow the differences on various issues, on Thursday met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava

New Delhi: US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived here on Wednesday to re-energise the bilateral ties and to narrow the differences on various issues, on Thursday met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The US Secretary of State will co-chair the 5th India-US strategic dialogue with Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj later today.

The US leader also took time out of his busy schedule and visited two Indian Institute of Technology laboratories and interacted with the students.

Kerry visited the Applied Microbiology Laboratory and Bio-process lab of the IIT.

Today`s meeting between the two leaders holds significance as it aims to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s much-awaited visit to the United States in September.

Kerry, who is on a three-day visit to India, and his entourage was received by the US chargé d`affaires to India, Kathleen Stephens upon his arrival here.

Kerry and Swaraj will jointly chair the fifth annual India-US Strategic Dialogue at 3 pm today. This will be followed by delegation-level talks.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had told reporters yesterday that both Kerry and Sushma Swaraj will interact with the media after the talks.

The media interaction will be followed by a working dinner between Kerry and Sushma Swaraj. The US Secretary of State is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister on Friday.

"India-US relation is witnessing a stable and mature growth and the meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Kerry is expected to explore new frontiers and initiatives to strengthen bilateral ties," Akbaruddin said.

In view of Modi`s scheduled trip to US, the meeting will also explore "transformative initiatives" to move bilateral relations between the world`s two biggest democracies to the next level, he added.

"I can say at this juncture that the visit of Modi will be result-oriented," Akbaruddin said replying to a question if discussions were on regarding the agenda of the Prime Minister`s US visit.

During the meeting, the Indian side is expected to raise the NSA snooping issue with Kerry, while the American side is likely to press New Delhi to drop its opposition to global trade reforms (WTO deal).

Kerry had yesterday said that the WTO deal is a test of the country`s (India) commitment to advance economic liberalisation.

Kerry made the call in a newspaper article, penned along with US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, published hours ahead of his arrival for talks aimed at revitalising ties that have been mired in disputes over trade, intellectual property rights and climate change.

India has threatened to block a worldwide reform of customs rules, saying it must be accompanied by a parallel agreement allowing developing countries more freedom to subsidise and stockpile food grains.

Swaraj and Kerry will also discuss matters of security, including cyber security.

"As far as security is concerned, every matter that impinges on our security issues, and ones where the US can help, will be discussed," the MEA spokesperson told the media.
Ahead of visiting India, Kerry, in a major speech, stressed that the US and India had the potential to become indispensable partners for the 21st century and said Washington wanted to support the Modi government`s vision of "sabka saath, sabka vikas (together with all, development for all)".

Kerry in his address at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a major US think-tank, said on Monday evening, that he would be "emphasising the opportunities" in which the US and India can become indispensable partners when he touches base with the new Indian government.

Mentioning Modi`s name 11 times in his address, he said. "The new Indian government`s plan, `Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas`, together with all, development for all - that`s a concept, a vision that we want to support.
"We believe it`s a great vision, and our private sector is eager to be a catalyst in India`s economic revitalisation."

Kerry is accompanied by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on the visit. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to visit India next month as part of preparations for the meeting between Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington.

State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said in a statement earlier that in addition to holding the Strategic Dialogue, Kerry will meet Prime Minister Modi, "the first Cabinet-level meeting with a US official since the inauguration of the new Indian government".

She added that discussion will cover "the full range of bilateral issues, including expanding bilateral trade, tackling climate change, improving India`s energy security through cooperation in clean energy and energy access, and expanding our already robust people-to-people ties".

The visit of the US` top diplomat "underscores the importance of the US-India partnership, and will lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Modi`s September visit to the United States".

(With Agency inputs)

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