Energy, education next big things in India-US ties

Washington, Feb 22 (IANS) Cooperation in the areas of energy and education could be the next big thing in India-US relations, officials indicated after "a series of very useful and important interactions" between visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and US officals.

"In these discussions, the importance of the bilateral partnership in key areas, including energy, trade and economic development, as well as our existing regional and international consultations were reaffirmed," an Indian embassy statement said.

"In the year ahead, it is intended that the two sides would increase the frequency and pace of bilateral consultations, including at official and political levels," it said.

Mathai, who is on a three-day visit to the US, also had a brief ten-minute call on new US Secretary of State John Kerry during which he "extended to him the good wishes of our leadership, and their congratulations upon his appointment."

Mathai also discussed the proposed visit to India by Kerry for the Third Round of the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, possibly in mid-June. Kerry in turn reaffirmed his invitation to the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to visit the US soon.

After the meeting with Mathai, Kerry tweeted under his personal tag: "Saw friend/Foreign Secretary Mathai- discussed importance of relationship w/ #India, expressed sympathies to brave people of #Hyderabad -JK."

Mathai also called upon Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman.

He had a conversation over lunch with Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment Robert Hormats as well as extensive and wide-ranging consultations with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

During the Mathai-Sherman meeting the "two sides covered bilateral, regional and global issues," the Indian Embassy stated.

The two "discussed a broad range of issues, including our bilateral cooperation on energy, climate change, defence, civil nuclear issues, education, regional dynamics, and joint collaboration in Afghanistan, Africa and Asia," according to a State Department spokesperson.

"Both look forward to another round of the US-India Strategic Dialogue later this year," she said.

Earlier today, Mathai set out a detailed blueprint of India-US bilateral relationship in an address on India and the United States in the 21st century at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mathai proposed greater India-US cooperation in seven key areas ranging from terrorism, defence and enhanced trade to support in multilateral fora.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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