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India sought out ally or partner for all, with US regretting its excesses

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India is looking at the upcoming visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to New Delhi from 8 June onwards as Special Envoy of the President as an opportunity to provide further momentum to India-China strategic and cooperative partnership. “The objective of the visit is to establish contact with the new Government of India. The visit is an important element of the Year of India-China friendly exchanges and will provide further momentum to the India-China strategic and cooperative partnership,” a Ministry of External Affairs communiqué reads. Apart from calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Wang, a seasoned diplomat, will interact with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was the first foreign Head of Government to call up Modi after he took over as Prime Minister. The Chinese Prime Minister had conveyed his government’s desire to establish robust with the new government during a call to Modi, who expressed keenness to work closely to deal with any “outstanding issues”.

During the call, Modi had noted that China was always a “priority” in India’s foreign policy and welcomed greater economic engagement between the two countries.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitryi O Rogozin, the pointsman on India relations in Moscow, is expected to visit India this month to hold talks with new leadership in India. “We have good very cooperation and cohesion with the new Prime Minister. We never introduced any black list (many western countries including the US and EU block had refused Modi visa after receiving feedback from rival camps about the 2002 Gujarat riots).

“He (Modi) had three successful visits to Russia. On that level we do not see any problem. With his energy and more focused attitude to cooperation projects, they will no doubt succeed,” Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin said.

Ambassador Joao Cravinho, head of the EU delegation, led Ambassadors of various European countries to a quiet lunch with Modi at the capital last year. And in the run-up to the polls, he even travelled across India to get a sense of the probable outcome and interacted with all players cutting across the political spectrum, something foreign envoys seldom do.

Cravinho said in a recent interview, “Negotiators from India and European Union are on the job to conclude the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The proposed agreement will lead to greater openness. In the past, EU held discussions with the BJP on the FTA. We take Mr Modi’s speech on economic issues on February 27 as a positive. I have no doubt that the FTA will benefit India. We hope that there will be progress in FTA before the next India-EU Summit at Brussels.”

However, India-US relations could get off to a “pretty slow start” under Modi, a former US envoy to India believes. “(On) the US-India relationship, (Narendra Modi) will get off to a pretty slow start in it. But there are objective factors which will make him want to have a good relationship with the United States,” Robert Blackwill said.

“The question is, will there be a new understanding in Washington in the administration of the importance of the US-India relationship. Because without that, Modi will be one hand clapping,” Blackwill said at a session organised by the Council on Foreign Relations on ‘The New Indian Government’ in New York.

Blackwill, who was the US Ambassador to India between 2001–2003, said the US-India relations have been in a “trough” for the last couple of years and there has been lack of attention at the highest levels on both sides.

With Modi being denied a US visa for almost a decade, Blackwill said the question arises as to how much of Modi’s personal feeling over the issue would affect state policy between Washington and New Delhi.

He said that the decision to deny Modi a visa was “absolutely unique” and the people who made the decision “thought, it’s pretty safe, because, he’s never going to be Prime Minister”.

Blackwill said the anger in India over the arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges is “absolutely right” and will not subside “right away” adding that hopefully with the passage of and on the back of “positive things happening in the relationship,” the rage “will ebb to some degree”.

“We have to get over the visa issue. And we have to get over (the arrest of Khobragade). Both of those have to get pause…There is something to the proposition that a liberal Democrat and a Hindu Conservative Nationalist aren’t necessarily going to get along naturally.

“But both have interests that will at least hopefully bring the US-India relationship back to a more prominent place in both capitols,” he added.

There are some views that are wholly optimistic, too. The new Indian government led by Modi provides a wonderful opportunity to reset Indo-US relationship, a top American Senator said on Wednesday.

In his keynote address on ‘Improving US-India Trade Relations’, organised by National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Senator Mark Warner unveiled his “first 100 day plan” that both the Modi government and the Obama Administration needs to take to revitalise India-US relationship.

Warner, who is Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, was highly appreciative of what he called the “bold agenda” unveiled by the Modi Government called for raising FDI cap in various sectors like insurance and defence, praised Modi government for taking steps to bring in transparency in governance and curb corruption.

The US manufacturing sector, which had launched anti-India campaign in last one year, welcomed the steps being taken by the Modi Government in the last one week and said this offers an opportunity for dialogue and it is ready to partner with India in the manufacturing sector.

The Modi government provides a wonderful opportunity to reset ties, the Democratic Party leader said.

For the Obama Administration, Warner called for nominating a new Ambassador to India who has enough stature and clout that reflects of the importance the US President attaches to bilateral ties.

The United States must review its visa policy with regard to India, he argued, noting that the visa issue is a constant irritant from the Indian side.

Warner called for announcing a joint energy project between India and the United States.

“We need to convene the India US strategic dialogue. We need to do this in New Delhi,” he said.

Praising the Gujarat model of development Warner said infrastructure in India presents a real opportunity.

“For US firms, a large part of the investment opportunities for the next five years are likely to be in infrastructure.”

“The Delhi-Mumbai corridor is taking shape, and it is worth asking the Government of India to consider dedicating several commercial centers for US investment,” Warner said.

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