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India, US increase trade five-fold to $500 billion

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Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Barack Obama next week, the two countries have decided to further deepen their security and economic cooperation and increase bilateral trade five-fold to $500 billion.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj co-chaired the first India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue that ended with the important takeaway of a joint statement on combating terrorism, reinforcing commercial ties and securing access to US inward investment and technology.

The dialogue also helped the two countries move towards the goal of making their ties the defining relationship of the 21st century and increase bilateral trade from $100 billion to $500 billion a year.

Kerry said the US-India relationship is a “bright spot on the international landscape and is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.”

“President Obama and our entire administration are strongly committed to this relationship, to this friendship.

And President Obama looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Modi next week in New York,” he said at a joint press conference with Swaraj after the meeting here yesterday.

Briefing about the meeting, he said, “We have concluded a very significant Memorandum of Understanding on energy security, climate change, and clean energy.” “We have renewed our joint commitment to maritime security, international law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions,” he said, adding that the two countries will implement measures to deepen their cooperation against international terrorism, which has claimed too many lives in both the nations.

Swaraj said the joint statement reiterates commitment of the two countries on common approach against terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani network and the D-Company.

“We (India and the US) reiterate that the threat posed by al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company (Dawood Ibrahim), Haqqani network and other regional groups undermines stability in South Asia. And we call to Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack,” Swaraj told reporters.

“We (India and the US) strongly condemn the July 27, 2015 terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab, and August 5, 2015 attack in Udhampur,” she said of the terror assaults in India which were carried out by terrorists based in Pakistan.

Swaraj said the joint statement states that the two countries are determined to fight terrorism to the end.

In response to a question, Kerry said the two countries are committed to bringing all their efforts together in this fight against terrorism.

“It is clearly one of the most fruitful, one of the most productive bilateral relationships that I have the privilege to work on,” Kerry said.

“We shared our strategic priorities, interests, and concerns on issues of mutual interest, including security and counter-terrorism, confidences in India’s Act East policy, and the US rebalance in Asia,” Swaraj said.

She said the two sides also talked about creating new substantive underpinnings to deepen bilateral engagement, including in the fields of defense, security, cyber, energy, climate change, science and technology, space, health, and other areas of economic development.

“Our effort in this discussion was that to look at each and every issues from the perspective of enhancing the relationship,” Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Americas, told reporters yesterday.

While there were differences on many well-known issues between the two sides, he said effort was essentially to engage in a manner that strengthens the ties rather than differences holding down the progress of the relationship.

Market access issues, agricultural products and textiles continued to get discussed, he said in response to a question.
There was also a broad reference to WTO as well, he said.

When asked about the quest for economic reforms raised by the Americans, he said the process of reform in India is something that the country does for its progress.

It was also decided to elevate the US, India, Japan trilateral partnership to the ministerial level and hold its first meeting next week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Asked whether the Dialogue was aimed at countering China’s growing influence, Swaraj and Kerry said the Communist giant did not even figure in their bilateral discussions.

“China did not even figure in our conversation,” Swaraj said.

“This is a dialogue to deepen and strengthen our bilateral cooperation, our bilateral ties and this dialogue has not been charted to create wider influence in any part of the world or China,” she said.

Kerry, in response to a question, said “this meeting has nothing to do with China. We made no mention of China in this conversation.”

PTI