Biden on visit to fire up US-India ties
22 July 2013, 15:14
New Delhi - US Vice President Joe Biden was due in India on Monday at the
start of a four-day visit designed to revive momentum in flagging diplomatic
ties and fire up bilateral trade.
Biden, the first vice president to visit India in three decades, will meet
senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi before
heading to the financial hub Mumbai to deliver a keynote speech on the economy.
In an interview published in Monday's Times of India newspaper, Biden said
the world's two biggest democracies had a "tremendous capability to work
together" but should be doing more.
He also emphasised that he wanted to see an acceleration in bilateral trade,
which he said was on track to meet $100bn this year.
"The United States has welcomed India's emergence and both nations have
profited from it," the vice president said.
"India's rise as a global economic power is one of the most powerful
stories of the 21st century," he added.
The announcement of Biden's visit was made during a trip to India last month
by Secretary of State John Kerry, who sought to assuage Indian fears about the
aftermath of next year's withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
India, which has spent more than two billion dollars of aid in Afghanistan,
fears any return of the Taliban, hard-line Islamists who were strong allies of
Pakistan before being toppled in 2001.
Nascent talks between the US and Taliban were due to start last month after
the Islamists opened an office in Doha, but they collapsed before even getting
off the ground.
In his meeting with Indian leaders, Biden is expected to reiterate that the
US will not back any peace process involving the Taliban unless they renounce
"If the Taliban are to have any role in Afghanistan's political future,
they will need to break ties with al-Qaeda, stop supporting violence and accept
the Afghan constitution as part of the outcomes of any negotiated peace
settlement," he told the Times of India.
"We strongly support the role India has played in Afghanistan,
leveraging its economic strength to improve Afghanistan's economy ...in
projects that will help to ensure our common goal of a stable and prosperous
future for the Afghan people," he added.
Biden will fly on Wednesday to Mumbai where he is expected to hold a
roundtable with business leaders and press for stronger intellectual property
While bilateral trade has grown in recent years, there is still widespread
frustration among US business leaders over what they see as unfair trading
Among the points of contention is India's championing of generic drugs -
which advocates say save lives in poor nations - despite protests from Western
India in turn has been alarmed by proposals in the US Congress to curb visas
for high-tech workers.
India's Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma
were both in Washington last week to pitch for investment and discuss India's
readiness to open talks on a bilateral investment treaty.
"Economic engagement in both trade and investment, though robust, is
well below potential, given the opportunities a growing economy like India
offers and the opportunities in the largest economy of the United States,"
Biden will be the most senior administration official to visit India since
President Barack Obama visited in 2010.
While the US has been among the world powers calling for India to be given a
permanent seat at the UN Security Council, observers detect a sense of drift in
"India is a natural ally of the US but... relations require greasing
occasionally because insecurities have crept in, especially on the Indian
side," Subhash Agrawal, of the Delhi-based think tank India Focus, told
Biden will head from India to Singapore on Thursday, where officials say he
will tackle tensions over the disputed South China Sea.