Seeks better deal for Indian professionals working in America, import of LNG; counter-terrorism, defence also discussed

In the first comprehensive high-level deliberations with the United States after the elections, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai put forward the Indian wish list of seeing a better deal for Indian professionals working there and the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The two sides also discussed ways to get the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal back on track following the stalemate over the Liability Act and India’s pending membership to export control organisations.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who was in New Delhi on Monday as part of regular bilateral consultations, called on Mr. Khurshid and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, besides holding detailed discussions with Mr. Mathai.

Ms. Sherman’s visit was preceded by a 90-minute meeting between Mr. Menon and his U.S. counterpart Thomas Donilon in Phnom Penh last week which was the first high-level contact after the U.S. elections.

During the discussion on bilateral relations, Mr. Khurshid drew attention to the importance of addressing the issues relating to Indian professionals in the U.S., especially matters relating to visas. Ms. Sherman responded that the U.S. was committed to working on this issue, said official sources.

She also conveyed condolences on the anniversary of 26/11 and said: “We grieve with you.”

Mr. Mathai and Ms. Sherman reviewed the entire expanse of bilateral relations, including ongoing efforts to implement the India-U.S. Civil Nuclear Agreement. Among other issues discussed were counter-terrorism and defence matters with the Foreign Secretary underscoring Indian interest in importing LNG from the U.S.

During their discussions on regional issues, she explained the U.S. rebalancing towards Asia. There was a discussion of developments in Afghanistan, including the roadmap to the transition envisaged in 2014 with both sides agreeing that economic development should be the priority.

Ms. Sherman will be visiting Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan after her visit to India.

During discussions on other regional issues, she thanked India’s efforts in ensuring America’s admission to the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation as an observer.

Ms. Sherman had made her maiden visit to the country in April this year when she had made known the U.S. administration’s decision to put a reward for information leading to the conviction of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.

In an interview to a TV channel, Ms. Sherman said the ‘reward for justice’ on Saeed was “just one tool to say if people can come forward with information that can lead to conviction.” While she did not say what the next tool was, Ms. Sherman said: “The world has seen when President Obama puts his mind to bringing people to justice it does happen. It may take some time but we don't lose focus… we don’t believe in finishing till the job is completely done.”

Keywords: India-U.S. ties

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