Agreeing To Disagree: U.S.-India relations go beyond seeing eye-to-eye

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington D.C. on September 27, 2022. PHOTO: Twitter @DrSJaishankar

Washington D.C.: India’s Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar said bilateral relations with the United States cannot be rocked by disagreements the two countries may have.

As he concluded his 10-day trip to New York and D.C., Minister Jaishankar indicated that India-US ties are solid and comfortable enough to engage on contentious issues with political exchanges and positive relations in trade and investments.

Following a packed schedule in Washington, Jaishankar had a series of bilateral engagements with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Dr. S. Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister at USISPF meeting in Washington, D.C. Sept. 28, 2022. Photo Twitter @DrSJaishankar

He additionally met with business leaders, participated in two round tables, attended a tech-focused event at the National Science Foundation and engaged with the Indian diaspora. He discussed new avenues of partnership on technology, research, resilient supply chains, and the semiconductor industry with prominent members of U.S. Congress – Senators Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Senator Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Congressmen Jerry McNerney, D-California, Ami Bera, D-California, and Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia.

“Today if you look at the India-US relationship, it’s not a narrow relationship only devoted to each other’s gains,” Jaishankar said at a press conference in the Willard Intercontinental September 28, 2022. “I think our relationship today impacts the rest of the world and definitely does the Indo-Pacific. There are a lot of countries who look to us individually or bilaterally for some part of the betterment which they hope for solutions which the world is searching for in many respects.”

Also, the bilateral relations do not depend on agreeing about everything. “The good part of the relationship is today we understand we have to make space for each other. And that we can work with each other even if we do not entirely agree on every aspect of every issue,” Jaishankar opined. “So, it was a very comfortable visit in that sense. I think we had some very good conversations.” Those conversations also included telling it like it is. The Minister did not shy from expressing India’s displeasure with the $450 million the Biden administration is giving to Pakistan for upkeep of F-16 fighter jets.

Minister Jaishankar also discussed the H-1B visa backlog issue with Secretary Blinken, telling media during a joint press conference at the State Department (without mentioning the specific visa type), “It is also in our mutual interest to facilitate the development and mobility of talent. We agreed that impediments over this should be addressed,” Press Trust of India reported.

Blinken reportedly assured the Minister he was sensitive to the matter and had a plan to address it.

From left, Indian Ambassador to US, Taranjit Sandhu, and India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar at the press conference in Willard Intercontinental on September 28th in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

To a question from News India Times about the international coverage and impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment to Russian President Vladimir Putin “Today’s era is not an era of war,” Jaishankar responded, “The position that the Prime Minister took was consistent with the position that we have been taking earlier. Now, possibly, it was received and perceived in a way because it was a face-to-face meeting, whereas, earlier on, these were reports of conversations that have taken place. So, in terms of the impact that they made on the global media, I think it’s understandable that a physical meeting made a stronger impact.”

Modi used the words during a bilateral meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Jaishankar also responded to a question on how India is looking to deal with Ukraine and Russia as it gets ready to assume Presidency of the G20 and the UN Security Council in December.

The Russia-Ukraine issue will naturally continue to feature in all important global discussions, Jaishankar indicated.

“Where the G20 is concerned, our view is that the G20 was primarily financial, economic, and social policy mechanism. Given the fact that the world is today grappling with energy security, food security, fertilizers, debt, and trade disruptions — these very critical pressing problems must be urgently addressed by the body. I think that will become the focus of the G20. Obviously, Ukraine will have some impact on how this works.”

About India’s Presidency on the Security Council, he outlined two themes critical to India. “One is on the reform of the UN. And you’ll note that there have been some developments in that regard, including an American position that has been articulated by President Biden and the Russian position articulated by Foreign Minister Lavrov. Our second theme will be pushing for counterterrorism and that’s a widespread global concern today. It’s an issue on which we also see a stronger consensus. So those will really be the focus.”

Jaishankar said he came away from his meetings with foreign ministers during the UN General Assembly, that there seemed a lack of optimism from the worried international community. The COVID-stressed world economy is now further complicated by the Ukraine issue, he noted, as a lot of countries, including India, confront multiple issues such as higher energy costs, rising debt, trade disruptions, food inflation, access to fertilizers etc.



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