The India’s Ambassador to the U.S. was speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Although it has been scarcely over a month since he took over the reins as India’s Ambassador to the U.S., S. Jaishankar, in his first public address showed the power of quiet but effective diplomacy as he laid out the case for improving the sentiment surrounding the India-U.S. relationship while appreciating that “the grand strategy underwriting our ties is fundamentally sound.”

Bilateral ties have recently been rocked by the case of former Indian Deputy Consul-General Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest on visa fraud charges in New York on December 12 sparked off an intense diplomatic crisis that clearly engulfed the new Ambassador’s schedule when he arrived at the end of December 2013.

While Mr. Jaishankar admitted that this episode had been “truly distressing,” he added that what it did highlight was the need for “greater sensitivity, for better understanding and for stronger oversight of our ties.”

In his speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ambassador proceeded to carefully pick apart the various factors driving such sentiment and in each case sought to make a compelling argument for why they could significantly improve.

On the positive side, Mr. Jaishankar noted, “comfort levels” in the bilateral relationship were higher than ever before in the light of India-U.S. trilateral dialogues held with Japan and with Afghanistan, and continuing geostrategic convergence that has changed the grand strategy of cooperation between the two countries “from rocket science to a no-brainer.”

However, he reflected, the “problem of sentiment” likely stemmed from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, no actual deals inked in the pursuit of the civil nuclear deal and New Delhi’s denial of the medium multi-role combat aircraft contract to Washington.

Although the shift in economic conditions appeared to have created a greater focus on tax disputes, localisation and Intellectual Property concerns on the U.S. side, and immigration reform, market access, protectionism and totalisation on the Indian one, Mr. Jaishankar assured, “India is concerned about its reputation, and we mean to act to show that we are open to international business.”

Simultaneously, the Ambassador expressed concern over the Senate proposal for immigration reform, a policy area that U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday indicated could come to the fore again.

Mr. Jaishankar said the Bill “basically attacks the business model which a lot of companies, not just Indian companies, have in the U.S. We think this is a bad idea [not only because] … their absence is going to hurt the U.S. economy as well.”

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