John Kerry signals all is well in US-India ties

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Current affairs

WASHINGTON: The new US Secretary of StateJohn Kerry took the unusual route of social media to signal that there would be continuity in the strong in US-India relations following the departure of Hillary Clinton, a much-loved figure in New Delhi. 

“Saw friend/Foreign Secretary Mathai — discussed importance of relationship w/ #India, expressed sympathies to brave people of #Hyderabad -JK,” Kerry messaged through Twitter on Thursday, signing off with his initials, which State Department officials said would henceforth be an indication the was personally writing the message. Officials earlier announced that Kerry would be more active on the social media, particularly on the @statedept feed, than his predecessor. 

Evidently, the Senator-turned-Secretary of State intends to use the Twitter pulpit, despite its abbreviated form, to send out political message. There have been murmurs of apprehension in the Indian commentariat about Kerry’s reported sympathies for Pakistan and its possible fall-out on US-India ties that has been strengthened enormously since 9/11. So Kerry took to Twitter to signal that “all is well,” an exercise that included addressing Ranjan Mathai, a foreign office mandarin, as a “friend,” Indian officials surmise. 

Those privy to Foreign Secretary Mathai’s call on Kerry also said he was effusive about the ties and will likely visit New Delhi in June for the annual US-India Strategic Dialogue, an expansive annual feature the kind of which Washington has with almost no other country. The ten-minute call by India’s top ranking diplomat, whose bureaucratic US counterpart protocol-wise is actually the third-ranking Department Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, quickly moved to the Hyderabad blasts, with Kerry making anxious queries just hours after it had taken place, and demonstrating a keen US concern about terrorism in India. 

Mathai later met Sherman for a three-hour meeting during which they talked a staggering range of issues, from joint initiatives in Africa to the developments in East Asia and Afghanistan to bilateral issues, especially on the energy front, as the two sides looked for the next big issue to fire up the relationship to greater heights — or depths, considering that they spent much time discussing prospects in shale gas technology and exploration. 

At the end of day long meetings, including with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, a key driver of the relationship, and with Robert Hormats, Undersecretary of State for Energy among other portfolios, Indian officials appeared assured that the relationship remain on track despite the developments in Afghanistan where the US-India vision could come unstuck. 


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