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US reaches out to Modi government, India says cyber snooping unacceptable

Posted on Aug 01 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, July 31 : The US reached out to the new Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi promising to partner it in its vision of "Sabka saath sabka vikasa or development for all", even as India raised the issue of America's cyber snooping and termed it unacceptable between friends.

Visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas" is similar to that expressed by US President Barack Obama and that the US private sector is eager to be a catalyst to the India growth story.

The meeting between Kerry, who arrived Wednesday at the head of a high level delegation and Sushma Swaraj, also laid the groundwork for the summit meeting between Obama and Modi in Washington in September.

Addressing a joint press briefing after their over three-hour long talks, Sushma Swaraj said that she had raised the issue of the US cyber snooping and conveyed to Kerry that the people of India were very agitated over the US surveillance activities.

"I also said if we consider each other friends then a friendly country spying on another is unacceptable."

Kerry, in reply, said that the US "fully respects and understands the feelings expressed" by the minister and that the US would continue to work with India wherever they saw a threat to their shared interests.

On India's opposition on the process of implementing the WTO's Bali agreement, which it feels will impact the country's food security programme, Kerry hoped that New Delhi would soften its stand and end the impasse on reaching an agreement.

"We are urging our friends in India on the way for compromise that is achievable, and we hope that it is achievable," he said.

India has so far said that its position on the issue continues to remain the same. India has strongly opposed the process of implementing the WTO's Bali agreements which include a trade facilitation agreement, a permanent solution on India's public stock holding of foodgrains for its food security programme and issues related to least developed countries (LDCs).

Hundreds of activists Thursday staged a protest here over pressure by Western nations on India to strengthen intellectual property rights, which has the potential to limit the production of life-saving generic medication.

Sushma Swaraj also raised the issue of the US immigration law, which she said will affect the Indian IT industry and give a negative signal at a time when India is opening up to foreign players.

Kerry tried to assuage Indian concerns saying that the bill is in need of amending so that more people are able to travel to the US but it would have to wait for a few months due to elections in the US.

Elaborating on the strategic partnership, he said the US supports Indian hopes to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council and "we would not support if we did not believe in India's breadth of values, cooperation on many issues, and India has been a significant steward of nuclear power, there are a great deal of interests that tie us together.. I acknowledge that there have been ups and downs but there have been much more ups in the last 10-15 years".

He said the US is "impressed with the breadth of the thoughts" of Prime Minister Modi and his government of providing jobs, reforms, the efficiency in decisions and about the economic changes that are possible.. "and we want to see those implemented, "and the proof is in the pudding".

Kerry's is the first high level contact of the US government with the Modi government.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrives early next month for the India-US defence dialogue.

Sushma Swaraj said the visit of Hagel would be a good opportunity to give new strategic content to their ties and that the summit meeting between Obama and Modi would raise the partnership to a new level.

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