NEW DELHI — Secretary of State John Kerry called Monday for a bilateral investment treaty with India, and said he would like to see the two countries fully embrace a nuclear energy deal that has so far frustrated U.S. companies.
Kerry, in India for the fourth round of the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, a mechanism started in 2009 to strengthen ties, also said that New Delhi could play a greater role in negotiations with Afghanistan and Iran, adding that Washington would protect India’s back in Afghan developments.
“The secretary has said he will ensure that none of the concerns of India are overlooked or undermined,” Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said at a joint news conference after the talks.
India has expressed concern that planned talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha, the capital of Qatar, over Afghanistan’s future could strengthen Pakistan’s influence, hurting New Delhi’s interests and fueling regional instability.
The two sides also discussed trade, energy, education, defense and security cooperation. Kerry announced that Vice President Joseph Biden will visit India in July to continue discussions.
The talks produced no major agreements, but some analysts said this was to be expected between countries that saw 112 official and high-level visits in 2012. “This is about what we can do together for the region and globally and how we are working at it,” said Ronen Sen, an analyst and former Indian Ambassador to the U.S. “Many meetings have established that we are close and important partners. We don’t have to work on a fixed agenda.”
Kerry expressed a desire for “full” implementation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. The agreement, once seen as a cornerstone of improved relations between the two democracies, has been a disappointment to U.S. companies who expected a windfall. India has insisted that foreign companies operating in the country assume near unlimited liability for accidents and mishaps, a condition that all but excludes American firms from participating.
On Wednesday, Kerry travels to Saudi Arabia to meet with senior officials on regional and bilateral issues before heading to Kuwait for bilateral talks and Jordan and Israel to discuss Mideast peace prospects.
The secretary of State also responded to concerns by Indian media that U.S. snooping programs recently disclosed by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden worked against India’s interests. Kerry said there was a great deal of miscommunication about U.S. monitoring of emails or phone calls, adding that these did not violate civil liberties and were governed by checks and balances.
“Regretfully, we live in a world that’s more dangerous, because some people prefer to kill people than enter the political system,” Kerry said. “There is a balance in this world we live in.”
Tanvi Sharma in the New Delhi bureau and staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times