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Snooping Unacceptable: India Voices Concerns

India bluntly told the U.S. that surveillance of political leaders and others in India by the American intelligence was “unacceptable” to which the U.S. responded by saying that any differences that may exist can be resolved by intelligence communities of the two countries.
A PTI report.

(Above): Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (r) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a joint press conference in New Delhi, July 31. [Vijay Verma | PTI]

This emerged after marathon talks between visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the highest-ranking dignitary to visit India since installation of the Modi government, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, July 31, in New Delhi. The two sides talked on a wide-range of key issues like trade, defense and energy.

At a joint press conference, July 31, Swaraj was asked if she had raised the issue of surveillance of BJP leaders in 2010 by the U.S. National Security Agency, as was made public recently on the basis of revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Swaraj replied, “I raised this issue with Secretary Kerry. I told them that when this news appeared in Indian papers, Indians were agitated and they had expressed their anger too. Main ussi rosh se apko awgat karana chahati hoon. (I want to make you aware of that anger).”

“I even told him that both countries consider each other as friendly nations and it will not be acceptable to us from any angle if one friendly country spies on another friendly country. This is unacceptable to us.”

However, Kerry defended the U.S. snooping saying, “We value our relationship with India, our bilateral relationship . . . we also value sharing of information between each other regarding counter-terrorism and other threats to both of our countries. Usually, we try to have our intelligence communities work to resolve any questions or differences that may exist.”

“We will continue to work actively with India wherever we see a threat to our shared interest and we fully respect and understand the feelings expressed by the Minister.”

Kerry also maintained that U.S. has a policy that it does not discuss intelligence matters in public. However, he added that America had conversations as the Minister has stated with government officials about surveillance reports.

Swaraj also raised the issue of U.S. Immigration Bill pending before the Senate which may limit the mobility of Indian IT professionals to the U.S.

The minister said she has conveyed to Kerry that if passed it will send a “negative signal” to professionals here when India is opening up and added that her ministerial colleague Nirmala Sitharaman has also raised the issue.

Another issue which was discussed in detail was India’s stand on food security at WTO.

On trade-related issues, Kerry said there was a lot of work yet to done in breaking down trade barriers and to limit obstacles including tariffs, price controls, and preferential treatment to certain products in large influential markets.

“We can build a more competitive market as well as build the bridges of opportunities that our young people in both the countries want so much. With 10 million Indians entering the work force each year, the Indian government clearly understands this imperatives,” Kerry said.

Kerry and Swaraj also discussed initiatives in various key areas as part of the agenda for the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama in September in Washington.

“In weeks to come, we will take series of steps to pave the way for PM Narendra Modi’s visit to U.S. in September,” Kerry said and noted that the moment has never been “more ripe” to deliver on incredible possibilities of relationship between the two nations.

“Now that India’s new government has won a historic mandate to deliver change and reform, together we have a singular opportunity to help India, to meet the challenge, to boost two-way trade, to support South Asia’s connectivity, to develop cleaner energy, to deepen our security partnership in Asia Pacific,” the visiting leader said.

Asserting that the U.S. and India can and should be indispensable partners of 21st. century, Kerry said, “Of course delivering . . . is the key. The words are easy. Its the actions we need to take. They will really define the relationship in the days ahead” and noted Modi government’s plan for ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ (together with all, development for all).”

Swaraj asserted that there was no “ambiguity” on the term strategic partnership with the U.S. as the foreign policy don’t change with change in the government.

The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement and welcomed the Authorization to Proceed provided to Westinghouse to implement the pre-Early Works Agreement with NPCIL as of September 2013.

Kerry and Swaraj also discussed other international issues including climate change, security situation in Afghanistan and conflict in Gaza.

When asked about India’s position on Gaza conflict, Swaraj in a short reply said India respects the cause of Palestine and was friendly with Israel.

Swaraj and Kerry reiterated their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, and disrupting terrorist networks including Al-Qaida and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“The leaders called for Pakistan to work toward bringing the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice,” a joint statement issued after the dialog said.

Expressing concern at the steep escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel, resulting in the loss of numerous civilian lives, they called upon both sides to exercise maximum restraint and expressed hope that necessary conditions will be created for a sustainable ceasefire and the early resumption of peace talks, towards a comprehensive resolution of the Middle East issue.

Kerry and Swaraj reaffirmed their commitment to ensure that the United Nations Security Council continues to effectively play its role in maintaining international peace and security as envisioned in the UN Charter.

The visiting leader reaffirmed that the U.S. looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.

Noting that India and the U.S. were “two confident nations” which have same core values, Kerry said the two countries have responsibility to ensure welfare of its citizens irrespective of their background.

“From women’s right to minority rights there is room to go further for both of us. We must also speak in a common voice that violence against women in any shape and form is violence against our deep core value,” Kerry said.

Earlier in the day, Kerry along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker also met Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

KERRY: Modi was Denied Visa by Previous Government

(Above): U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (c) and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker (l) met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Aug. 1. [Press Information Bureau]

NEW DELHI (PTI) – In perhaps the first explanation of the U.S. denial of visa for Narendra Modi, the Obama Administration today said the decision was taken by the previous government.

“It’s a very big deal. It’s a different government now. Just like it is here. We will welcome Prime Minister Modi.”

“He is going to get a welcome. Of course, he will get a visa. No question whatsoever. And we look forward to a terrific meeting with President Obama in September,” Secretary of State John Kerry told NDTV, July 31.

He was replying to a question whether the refusal of visa (by the Bush administration) was a mistake as the U.S. government has done a complete turn around now.

Kerry said there was no gain in discussing the past.

“We are going forward.  I don’t spend my time going backward in politics or who made what decision. What I try to do is solve current issues and Penny (Commerce Secretary) and I are here not to look backward but to look forward.”


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Snooping Unacceptable:
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India bluntly told U.S. that surveillance of political leaders in India by U.S. intelligence was ‘unacceptable.’ A PTI report.

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