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India-US ties back on rails; energy secy to arrive for talks in March

Source : TIMES OF INDIA
Feb 11, 2014

 NEW DELHI: India and the US have agreed to hold their crucial energy dialogue next month in what is the first real sign that all may finally be well between the two countries after ties were sent for a toss by the arrest and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

It is learnt that US energy secretary Ernest Moniz will visit New Delhi in the second week of March for the dialogue which is important for India as it looks at the US for a reliable supply of clean energy in the form of LNG.

  Moniz's dialogue with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will put the bilateral engagement process firmly back on track.

The dialogue was the biggest casualty in ties because of the Khobragade issue as Moniz had to put off his visit last month after suggestions from India that there couldn't be business as usual until the diplomat was accorded immunity. While Khobragade continues to face charges, the fact that the US facilitated her return by acknowledging her status as a counsellor with India's permanent UN mission has allowed India to soften its position.

India's decision to quickly reschedule the energy dialogue reflects the thinking within the government that ties with the US, a global strategic partnership, are too important to be held hostage by developments over any one issue. The same sentiment was expressed by both sides when foreign minister Salman Khurshid met his counterpart John Kerry recently on the sidelines of the Geneva II conference on Syria. The government would still like US authorities to drop charges against Khobragade altogether but even if that doesn't happen, it is not likely to have any impact on bilateral engagements.

At the same time, though, the government is still not willing to let go of the issues related to functioning of the American Embassy School here. Official sources said they were still looking for clarifications from US authorities about alleged tax law violations by the school.

The US-India Energy Dialogue was launched in 2005 to promote increased trade and investment in the energy sector. Realizing the geopolitical implications of US natural gas exports, India is looking at investing heavily in this market. India sees LNG imports from the US as a win-win situation for both countries.

"The prospect of increased Indian investments in the US natural gas market will push further a strong and mutually rewarding energy partnership as well as further consolidate our strategic ties and deeper cooperation for the benefit of millions of people in both countries,'' India's deputy chief of mission in Washington, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, said recently.

 


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