Despite flaps, ties with India’s Modi government strong: US

Washington: Despite a flap over sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan and India’s denial of visas to a US commission on religious freedom, the US says it has a strong relationship with India, specifically with the Narendra Modi government.

“No, I would actually disagree with that,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Wednesday when asked if the US was not having a smooth ride with India in view of such issues.

“I think we have had and we look forward to continuing to have a good, strong relationship with India writ large and with the Modi government specifically,” he said.

“And there are a lot of common issues, common challenges, common threats, quite frankly, that we and the Indian people face,” Kirby said.

“So no, I would absolutely not characterize that at all,” he said. “I think we’ve got a good, honest, candid, productive relationship with the Modi government, and we look forward to that continuing. In fact, we look forward to it deepening.”

Asked whether issues surrounding the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal would be resolved during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington for the nuclear security summit later this month, Kirby said he didn’t have “anything specific” on the issue.

“Obviously, we’re very much looking forward to that and to our ability to participate in it. But I don’t have anything specific with the Indian civil nuclear programme to discuss today,” he said.

The Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s who Wednesday concluded a four day visit to Washington to review India-US bilateral relations ahead of Modi’s visit “talked about a wide range of bilateral and regional issues” with US officials.

Jaishankar met with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and many other officials, and discussed “the full range of issues in the US-India relationship were discussed – economic, political, security,” Kirby said.

Asked whether counter-terrorism and the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan in the face of India’s strong objections was discussed, the official repeated that “they discussed a wide range to include security issues” but declined to give a detailed readout.

“I can scarcely think of a time when we haven’t sat down with our Indian friends that we didn’t talk about counterterrorism,” Kirby added.

He again declined “to get into great detail” whether India’s denial of visas to the US Commission On International Religious Freedom was discussed.

“We had good, productive talks about a wide range of issues facing both our countries as we continue to try to deepen this relationship and deal with very common challenges,” Kirby said.

“As for the commission and the visas, we’ve made our concerns known at various levels,” he said. “So we’ve not been bashful or shy about stating our disappointment.