US welcomes India as a rising power: John Kerry

Indo - America flag     The US welcomes India as a rising power and backs its inclusion as a permanent member of a reformed and expanded UN Security Council, Secretary of State John Kerry said ahead of his maiden visit to New Delhi.

US Secretary of State John Kerry heads to India on Sunday calling for the two countries’ relations to achieve their “full potential,” amid charges that years of momentum have ground to a halt. Kerry will spend three days in New Delhi on his first visit to India as the top US diplomat, where he plans to discuss cooperation on education and climate change and take up concerns over plans for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a video message ahead of his visit, Kerry said President Barack Obama’s administration held a “firm belief that a strong India is in America’s national interests.”

“This is the time for both the United States and India to challenge ourselves in order to reach higher, in order to strengthen the bonds that we share, and to realize the full potential of our partnership.”

Kerry pointed to Obama’s support for New Delhi as a permanent member of the UN Security Council — one of the emerging power’s top foreign policy goals — and his own efforts as a senator to approve a nuclear cooperation agreement.

India has been alarmed by proposals in the US Congress to curb visas to high-tech workers as well as US plans to end the unpopular Afghanistan war next year and negotiate with the Taliban, who are sworn enemies of India.”We would like to get from the secretary a better idea of what the American plans are” in Afghanistan, a senior government official said in New Delhi.

He said the US and India share a strong and enduring commitment to Afghanistan”s peace and prosperity. “India is making important contributions  through its reconstruction and development work. And we also welcome India”s leadership in the Asia-Pacific region,” Kerry said. This is the time for both the US and India to challenge themselves in order to reach higher, in order to strengthen the bonds, and to realise the full potential of partnership, he said.

Kerry, who will be joined by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, has long championed action on climate change. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping also found some common ground on the issue when they met earlier this month.

Kerry’s visit comes as India prepares for elections next year, with Gujarat state’s controversial leader Narendra Modi expected to lead the Hindu nationalist main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

The United States has refused to issue Modi a visa due to allegations he turned a blind eye or worse to anti-Muslim riots in 2002. Britain recently ended its boycott of Modi in an acknowledgement of his emerging national role.

Kerry will be heading to India from Qatar, where he will take part in a conference on Syria and talk about outreach to the Taliban.

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