US on pathway to become India's best partner: Envoy

US on pathway to become India's best partner: Envoy

US on pathway to become India's best partner: Envoy

With two back-to-back historic visits by the Indian and American leadership in less than six months, the US is on "pathway" to become India's "best partner" as the two countries have agreed on a robust agenda to strengthen their strategic ties.

It is rare to have the top leadership of two countries to come together in a five-month period and agree on a "robust agenda", US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma has said.

"I believe we are on a pathway to become India's best partner. Of course we are natural partners and our values are aligned, we want to be India's best partner," Verma, who is the first Indian-American to head this top diplomatic position in New Delhi, told PTI in an interview.

In Washington DC for a few days this week to attend the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference, Verma said the September visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US and the January India visit by Obama has resulted in an "elevated level" of relationship and a "higher degree" of partnership than the two nations had in the past.

Verma, 47, said that further outcome of Obama's visit was setting up of the hotline between the two leaders and the national security advisor, introducing the commercial component into the Strategic Dialogue, and the joint strategic vision for South Asia.

"These are very significant document and architecture of cooperation in the Pacific and beyond South Asia on resolving disputes peacefully, on maritime cooperation, on regional economic integration, on combatting weapons of mass destruction.

"That was a really positive development. In addition, what came out in the January visit was the declaration of friendship.

"Who could have imagined even a year ago that we could announce six projects for co-development and co-production? So much of that work occurred from September to January and that's why that visit was so important.

"Then, we had the January visit of the President. The two have opened up pathways of cooperation in all the major categories," he said, adding that the earlier notion of business as usual was not sufficient.

"Change in attitude between New Delhi and (Washington) DC is an important benefit of this relationship," he said.

Verma said America's desire to become India's best partner is "about demonstrating the importance of the relationship" and is not about the competition with other countries of the world.

"It is about the important security, economic, people-to- people, human benefits that can occur when India and the United States are the closest of friends and partners.

"There is a lot of excitement and a lot of promise in what we are doing. "Not just in India, but globally when these two democracies come together and support this rules-based democratic system, we can be shining examples to draw others into this rules-based system and work together in cooperation.

"Ultimately, this is about making a difference in people's lives so that they can live safely and have opportunities for the future in both our countries," he said.

"Our work, the visit of the Prime Minister, the visit of the President were all meant to ensure that we are pulling and pushing in the right places," he said, adding that more than 30 different working groups were re-energised after the September visit.

Verma said in the last two years of Obama's term, the effort is to continuing to ensure that "we have this elevated notion of partnership between our two countries".

This is described as Strategic Plus. "It is not business as usual," he asserted. "I am very optimistic about where things are headed and I am very encouraged by what we can do together," he said.

"There is a lot that we can do together," he added. In response to a question, he said his goal is to show progress in each of the areas of bilateral cooperation, be it defence or economics.

"One of my personal goals is also to get out to people... and make sure that people who have questions or concerns we are hearing them, and get around the country and interact with as many people, as many States as possible, so that I have a better understanding of what their concerns are (and) they can appreciate what this American partnership is all about," he said.

The Ambassador hoped that the defence partnership agreement would be signed late spring or early summer.

"It is just a matter of when and where," he said, adding that defence is an important component of India-US ties.

Verma said it is a "personal and professional honour" to be able to come back to the country which his parents left 50 years ago. "It is also a very American story," he said.

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