These were the two best years in India-US ties, says Ambassador Richard Verma

US ambassador Richard Verma described the period he has been serving as US Envoy in New Delhi as “the two best years we’ve ever had. Our leaders have met nine times, held three summits, rolled out 100 new initiatives and over 40 government-togovernment dialogues,” Verma told the media. “This has led to big things – the Westinghouse nuclear contract, Paris climate agreement, major defence partner elevation… We are doing more with each other than ever before.”

As outgoing US President Barack Obama and PM Narendra Modi held their last official conversation on phone reviewing the progress in bilateral relations since the BJP-led government came to power last week.

After clearing the nuclear liability hurdle, India and Westinghouse are on the verge of signing the commercial contract for nuclear reactors, Verma said. “We have set a goal for this summer to complete commercial contract with Westinghouse. Thus far, we have met our milestones to submit commercial offer, teams met to discuss financing … Now it’s a matter of getting the final terms of the contract signed. The land has been allocated, we’re excited,” the outgoing ambassador said.

However, NSG membership for India has eluded the grasp of bilateral diplomacy .”This is part of a larger commitment President Obama made in 2010, that India should have a seat in international institutions and regimes that is consistent with its role … This is not 1945 any more.We have worked with India to get entry into MTCR, the membership process to Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement are moving well,” he said.

The NSG talks may slow down due to the transition in the US, but the Rafael Grossi process (former NSG chief ‘s initiative to facilitate India’s membership) is more or less complete. “It looked at how to handle non-NPT countries entering the NSG process …We have come to a consensus on the criteria,” he said.

He said in the past few years, the defence relationship has jumped to a whole new level. “Prime Minister Modi told the US Congress last year that it is in America’s strategic interest for India to be strong and prosperous. President Obama believes in it. We are trying to bolster capabilities across sectors like cyber, defenc etc. These are engines of job creationboth in India and the US,” Verma said.

“Secretary Ashton Carter proposed new projects – one for vertical lift helicopter that we would co-develop and a ground combat vehicle. Now, with the LEMOA signed, our two militaries can interact with each other with greater ease,” he said. The US, Verma said, is consulting with India on an aircraft carrier.

The Indian Ocean strategic vision document signed by Obama and Modi in January 2015 changed the strategic outlook for India. Verma said, “It’s foundational to the work we’ve done. It’s actually a collective vision for the Asia-Pacific, where we see a leadership role for India. As a result of this statement, the governments of India, Japan and US elevated their trilateral to the ministerial level, Japan was re-inducted into Malabar exercises, there has been greater intelligence cooperation and sharing of information, we have stood up together for free flow of commerce, respect for UNCLOS, freedom of navigation.”  The movement against terrorism, the US ambassador said, has continued apace.

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