Rao meets Clinton, Jones;conveys India's concerns on H1B issue

Last Updated : 18 September 2010, 06:01 IST
Last Updated : 18 September 2010, 06:01 IST

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Rao's meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Gen (Retd) James Jones and other key officials of the Obama Administration here yesterday "laid the foundation" of a successful Presidential visit to India in early November, the White House said.

After her meeting with Jones at the White House, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Mike Hammer told PTI that "both agreed that the vast range of cooperation between us would set the foundation for a successful presidential visit and further our strategic partnership."

Noting that the Rao-Jones meeting was held to continue preparations for the US President's upcoming visit to India in early November, Hammer said: "In addition, General Jones and Rao discussed other developments in the South Asia region, noting our mutual desire for stability."

Besides driving down to the White House for her meeting with Jones, Rao spent most of her day yesterday at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, where she had a series of meetings on issues ranging from the bilateral ties, situation in the region, India's role at the global level to the expansion of the UN Security Council.

However, all these meetings were focussed on the early November visit of Obama to India.

On the Clinton-Rao meeting, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the Secretary of State held talks with Rao along with her top aides like Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake.

They discussed the latest developments in the US-India relationship and preparations for the President's trip to India later this year, he said.

After Rao's meetings, a senior Indian official said the deliberations reflected the "transformational" relationship between India and the United States. There is a convergence of views and strategic interest on a wide range of global issues.

At the same time, officials of both countries conveyed their respective concerns during the meeting.

While India was quick to raise the issue of H-1B and other perceived protectionist measures of the US in the recent past, the US spoke of its dissatisfaction over the Nuclear Liability Bill that was recently passed by Parliament and said it was incompatible with Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC).

The Indian delegation told the US it believed that the Nuclear Liability Bill was consistent with the CSC and categorically ruled out making any change to the text of the legislation passed by Parliament.

While the US was supportive of India's desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, officials said the Obama Administration was unlikely to "endorse" New Delhi for this place in the near future as it had done for Japan.

The Indian delegation urged the US to resolve the H-1B visa issue as soon as possible.
"It would be good for the relationship if it (H1B issue) is sorted out earlier," the US side was told during the meetings, according to the Indian official.

However, there was no immediate commitment from the US on this issue, which has now been left to Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who are scheduled to meet in Washington next week.

Rao's meetings also gave a sense that the Obama Administration was determined to take the Indo-US relationship to a new level of strategic partnership and working to make the Presidential visit a "milestone" of these emerging ties between the two largest democratic countries of the world, the official said.

The Indian delegation is also understood to have brought to the notice of the US officials the recent Pakistani statements on Kashmir as it was an internal matter of India, continued infiltration into Kashmir, the issue of cross- border terrorism and painfully slow progress in bringing to book those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

During the meetings, US officials are believed to have praised constructive Indian role in Afghanistan and urged New Delhi to "step-up" its cooperation in the war-torn country.

India, on the other hand, expressed concern that any "US exit" from Afghanistan at this point of time or even in the near future would strengthen the terrorist organisations and extremist elements in the region, which it feels would not be good for the security of the United States, European countries and India as well.

The issue of increased assertiveness of China in the Indian Ocean and Asia was also discussed during these meetings.

Asked about the tough US stance on outsourcing and the recent hike on H1B visa fee, Foreign Secretary Rao told an Indian TV channel that she raised the issue during her meetings with the American officials here.

"I raised it in a number of my meetings and I was able to convey to them that the issue was of concern, of serious concern, to our industry and essentially was perceived as a rise in protectionist sentiments in the United states and we needed to address this issue.

"But, I also think the sense that we got in these discussions was that this relationship between India and the United States has acquired a dimension and a relevance that includes a number of areas and issues such as this -- the visa-related issues and the issues relating to the controls that have been placed in this area -- need to be addressed keeping in mind the larger purpose of this relationship," she told NDTV.

When pointed out that US and India appear to be on different pages on their Af-Pak policy, Rao said: "I actually do not agree with you on that description. We are not on different pages. In fact, I came away with the impression, with the very strong conclusion that India and the US have much in common when it comes to Afghanistan."

"We are both against terrorism. We are against extremism we see the need to overcome it. We are for democracy, stability and development in Afghanistan and there is growing appreciation by the day in the US about the role that India is playing in Afghanistan and the contributions that we have made to the development of that country. On the contrary, rather than differences I see growing convergence," Rao said.

Published 18 September 2010, 05:16 IST

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