While it may have lacked the punching power of a full-fledged Strategic Dialogue, India-U.S ties received a quick shot in the arm on Monday evening on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly when Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed bilateral issues, including visa-related concerns and shale gas extraction, and also cooperative efforts in Afghanistan and Libya.
The 45-minute-meeting in New York saw Mr. Krishna raise Washington’s hike in visa fees in 2010, which raised a furore among IT companies that would be required to fund significantly higher costs for H1-B and L1 visas. The new fee regime was put in place to finance increased border security with Mexico under the Border Security Act.
Official sources told The Hindu that while Ms. Clinton understood the concerns voiced by Mr. Krishna she, however, mentioned that general visa revamping could only follow the November 6 elections.
Questions of regional cooperation between India and the U.S. received a more positive affirmation on both sides. In Libya, the U.S. was keen to involve Indian support for institution-building, officials said, and Mr. Krishna said New Delhi would do whatever it could that the Libyans sought in terms of assistance.
Similarly, both leaders assessed the trilateral dialogue with Afghanistan positively, and South Asian cooperation and India’s Look-East policy were applauded by Ms. Clinton.
Shale gas, an area of cooperation with significant untapped potential, featured prominently in the discussion too, especially with India’s strong interest in the large quantities of the gas discovered in the U.S. recently. An official said India was keen that its companies should be able to import it in liquefied form through containerised vessels, as it does with LNG from Qatar.
With a focus on both the U.S. and Canada as potential suppliers of gas in this form, the idea was to open up new sources of energy and diversify the supplier base, it was noted, and there was also the possibility that shale gas imports may be cheaper than the current arrangements.
However, among a range of enabling factors for the U.S. to export shale gas to India were some approvals, including possible legislative approvals. Additionally, issues regarding the environmental impacts of shale production, such as the potentially corrosive impact of hydraulic fracturing on water-tables, were unresolved, and thus further decisions may similarly have to wait until after elections.
Sandeep Dikshit reports from New Delhi:
The two leaders also touched on contemporary issues such as the attacks on U.S. missions abroad in the wake of a film denigrating Islam, the Wisconsin Gurdwara shooting and regional economic integration projects, including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.
Mr. Krishna expressed solidarity with the U.S. over the attacks on its missions abroad and the assassination of its envoy to Libya Chris Stevens. He also expressed concern over violent protests targeting the U.S. Consulate in Chennai.