NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived at the Air Force station in Palam on Wednesday evening on a three-day visit, which will see both sides exploring “transformative initiatives” that could be showcased at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Washington.
On Thursday, Kerry and US Commerce Secretary Penny Stritzker will attend a strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman.
“This is the first high-level interaction that India and the United States will have at the political level, after the new government took over,” MEA Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
While both sides will be reviewing various issues and initiatives, they will focus on Modi’s visit to the US in late-September.
“You are also aware that the Prime Minister of India is scheduled to visit the United States later in the year and, therefore, the opportunity will be taken to explore transformative initiatives that can move Indo-US relations to the next level,” said Akbaruddin. This was also an echo of Kerry stating in his speech on Monday that India-US ties were at a “transformative moment”. Kerry will be meeting Modi on August 1.
No details were given on Wednesday. “I said that transformative initiatives will be explored, not transparent initiatives. And for initiatives to succeed we require some space for us to actually engage in them before we explore. We can’t transparently tell you that,” he said.
The focus areas of the strategic dialogue will be security, energy, trade and investment, science and technology, human resource development and regional and international issues.
The talks will begin at 3 pm on Thursday, with the first hour in a restricted format between the principals, followed by delegation-level discussions for two hours. It will be followed by interaction with the press.
All of this will take place in the MEA’s second home, Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, instead of the Hyderabad House.
Asked if snooping by US spy agency NSA would be taken up, Akbaruddin indicated that it would be raised by the Indian side.
“You are also aware that there is considerable disquiet in India about the authorizations provided to the American agencies in terms of contravening the privacy of individuals, entities and the Government of India. So, obviously if there is considerable disquiet, these issues are likely to figure without me getting into a detailed elaboration of what,” he said.