India and the U.S. on Monday agreed to set a timeline for operationalising the civil nuclear agreement. The Fourth Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here reviewed several issues ranging from the status of civil nuclear ties between the two countries through defence trade to education and cultural exchanges — through some 30 bilateral panels.
The two ministers felt further high-level meetings should be held to achieve convergence and progress, especially in strategic issues. An example of such meetings will be the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden scheduled for mid-July.
The new U.S. Af Pak envoy James Dobbin, fresh from a visit to Qatar where the Taliban has opened an office, will arrive this Wednesday to ensure India’s concerns are taken on board as the West prepares to politically integrate the insurgent group, Mr. Kerry said at a joint press conference with Mr. Khurshid.
At the press conference, Mr. Kerry almost let slip America’s chagrin at not having tasted the fruits of the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement by drawing attention to the enormous domestic political capital invested by Democrats and Republicans to ensure New Delhi was given a special exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
The Kerry-Khurshid meeting set September as a possible timeline for resolving two issues that have thwarted Westinghouse from setting up six reactors in Gujarat. Another company GE will set up an equal number in Andhra Pradesh but its reactor design has not yet been cleared by the U.S. nuclear regulator. India had promised these multi-billion bonanzas in exchange for supporting its case at the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
While Washington was able to make India agree on a deadline for clearing Westinghouse’s mega civil energy project, India was handed an assurance for importing shale gas from the U.S., which is likely to accrue by 2016-17. The shipments are likely to originate at the proposed LNG export terminal at Cove Point, Maryland.
The U.S. also continued to press India on adopting clean energy technologies. Of the large number of joint fact sheets released on every conceivable subject discussed by the two sides, the one on this was the most comprehensive. On Sunday, Mr. Kerry spent nearly half of his 45-minute lecture in convincing India to adopt clean technologies.
Apart from Afghanistan, another sore issue was cyber-snooping by American intelligence agencies. Officials had earlier expressed concern over double standards followed by Internet companies — denying India access to emails while happily opening their vaults to U.S. intelligence agencies.
But Mr. Khurshid sought to play down the controversy, even telling a correspondent that concern was not the right word to use. Mr. Kerry told newspersons that notwithstanding vigorous American efforts to arrest the whistleblower, access by its intelligence agencies to emails and other electronic messaging was meant to track patterns and not to read the content.
Differing viewpoints on Iran cropped up during the press meet. Mr. Kerry was strident on Iran’s refusal to fall in line with the West’s intentions and lauded India for being “very cooperative in holding them [Iran] accountable for proliferation.”
He hoped New Delhi would step in to convince the new leadership in Tehran to fall in line with the West. Mr. Khurshid, recently back from Tehran, maintained that India greatly valued its relationship with Iran and would prefer to judge and test the intentions of the new leadership before considering such a plunge.
Unhappy with compensation
India did not raise the killing of one fisherman and the injuries caused to two others by a U.S. warship off the coast of Abu Dhabi in July last year. In the past, India had expressed dissatisfaction with the paltry compensation given to the injured as well as with a heavily crossed out U.S. Navy probe report which put the blame on the three Tamil fishermen.