India’s tough stand at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is likely to hang over bilateral issues between India and the U.S. as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry begins his meetings in Delhi on Thursday.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who is accompanying Mr. Kerry to co-chair the Indo-U.S. strategic dialogue, set alarm bells ringing just hours before the meeting, saying the U.S. was “very disappointed with India stepping backwards on its WTO commitments.”
The deadline for India to sign on to the Doha Round of trade talks expires in the next two days, while the U.S. delegation is here, and Mr. Kerry has urged India to sign the agreement, which India opposes unless it is accompanied by an agreement that allows developing countries to subsidise foodgrains. Ms. Pritzker, speaking to PTI in Mumbai, said: “I am an optimist, I am hopeful that over the next couple of days there is some potential for resolution.” But she also made it clear that India’s refusal to sign the trade agreement would have “serious implications.”
The visiting U.S. delegation will hold meetings with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and later with Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley here on Thursday. In the afternoon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj followed by delegation-level talks and a joint press conference.
They will then continue their talks during a “working dinner.” On Friday, Mr. Kerry will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi before he flies out. An earlier plan to visit Bangalore was cancelled, officials said.
One sticking point during the talks will be the recent revelations of U.S. NSA surveillance on Indian missions as well as the BJP leadership. “Security and cyber-security are on the agenda at the strategic dialogue,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
“There is considerable disquiet in India about the authorisations provided for the U.S. NSA that contravene privacy norms for entities, individuals and the government of India. These issues are likely to figure [in the talks].”
Restarting talks The two sides will discuss other issues, including the stalled nuclear deal, intelligence sharing on terror, climate change, visa and patent issues during their dialogue.
Mr. Kerry’s mission in Delhi is to “restart talks” and will also set the stage for Mr. Modi’s visit to Washington in September.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is also expected to visit India between August 8 and 10 to take forward the defence agenda for purchases and cooperation to be announced during Mr. Modi’s U.S. trip.