Top US official to visit India to strengthen India-US ties; India seeks early resolution of a series of disputes with the US; Pentagon: US supports India's rise as capable actor in region; US and EU impose sanctions and warn Russia to relent in Ukraine st
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  • (MARCH 3-16)

    According to reports, the US has sent a message to India through one of his top diplomats that the relationship between the two countries is important, saying America wants to move past the differences they recently had over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York. "The Secretary (John Kerry) is sending with her (Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal) a message that this relationship is important," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said. Biswal, the Indian-origin US diplomat, is on her maiden trip to India in her current position during March 4-6. "We want to move past disagreements we've had because we have so many issues that are important for us to work closely on. So that is the purpose of her trip. But obviously, she has an expansive itinerary while she's there," Psaki said. During the trip, Biswal would be travelling to Bangalore and then to New Delhi. "This is an important trip for us. We have a broad and strategic partnership with India, and we're a proud partner with India in virtually every field of human endeavour, from solutions to poverty and disease to space exploration and counterterrorism," she said.1

    According to reports, India on March 5 called for the early resolution of a series of disputes with the US, including last year’s arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York that have badly strained ties which both sides describe as a strategic partnership. The message was conveyed by foreign secretary Sujatha Singh to visiting US assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal, on her first visit to India after taking over the post late last year. Biswal was to visit New Delhi in January but the diplomatic storm over Khobragade’s arrest over the alleged ill-treatment of her maid caused her to postpone her visit. “The foreign secretary underlined ... the need for officials on both sides to expeditiously resolve outstanding issues, to enable both sides to focus their energies on the substantive and strategic issues that underpin this vital partnership,” said a person close to the developments about talks between Singh and Biswal in New Delhi on March 5. “During her official meetings in New Delhi, Biswal held detailed discussions on India-US relations with her counterpart, the joint secretary for the Americas in the m,inistry of external affairs,” the person, who did not wish to be named said.
    “The two sides discussed the current state of the bilateral relationship, and considered measures to achieve progress in resolving to mutual satisfaction issues that have emerged on either side in recent months. Biswal began her three-day India visit in India’s information technology (IT) capital Bangalore on March 4 meeting senior political leaders of Karnataka, US business representatives based there as well as the head of India’s space agency K. Radhakrishnan.2

    According to reports, the US supports India's rise as an increasingly capable actor in Asia, the Pentagon said. "The United States supports India's rise as an increasingly capable actor in the region, and we are deepening our strategic partnership, including through the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative," the Pentagon said in its 2014 Quadrennial Defence Review. As the US ends its combat operations in Afghanistan, it is prepared to transition to a limited mission focused on counter-terrorism and training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces, it said. "We will continue efforts to help stabilise Central and Southwest Asia and deepen our engagement in the Indian Ocean region to bolster our rebalance to Asia," the Defence Department said. The Pentagon acknowledged that maintaining US global posture and presence to support stability, security, and prosperity will become more challenging but perhaps even more essential in an environment of constrained resources. "Supporting the broader US rebalance to the region, the United States will maintain a robust footprint in Northeast Asia while enhancing our presence in Oceania, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean. By 2020, 60 percent of US Navy assets will be stationed in the Pacific, including enhancements to our critical naval presence in Japan," the report said. As the United States completes its transition in Afghanistan and looks to the future, the international security environment remains uncertain and complicated, the Pentagon noted. "The United States will likely face a broad array of threats and opportunities and must prepare to address both effectively in the coming years," it said. The Asia-Pacific region, the report said, is increasingly central to global commerce, politics, and security. It also expressed anxiety over rapid pace and comprehensive scope of China's military modernisation. "Defence spending in this region continues to rise. As nations in the region continue to develop their military and security capabilities, there is greater risk that tensions over long-standing sovereignty disputes or claims to natural resources will spur disruptive competition or erupt into conflict, reversing the trends of rising regional peace, stability, and prosperity," the Pentagon warned. Iran remains a destabilising actor in the region that threatens security by defying international law and pursuing capabilities that would allow it to develop nuclear weapons, it said.3

    According to reports, President Barack Obama and his EU allies unveiled a co-ordinated set of sanctions on March 6 to punish Russia for occupying the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, imposing visa restrictions on individuals and sharpening rhetoric in what has rapidly degenerated into the worst east-west crisis since the end of the cold war. President Obama spoke for an hour on Thursday afternoon with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. According the White House, the US president told Putin that newly-announced sanctions, introduced in co-ordination with the UK, were a response to Russia’s “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. “President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community.” the White House said in a statement to reporters. “As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May.”In their first concrete response to Russia’s move to seize Crimea from Ukraine, Brussels and Washington also warned of further sanctions such as asset seizures if Moscow does not relent in the standoff.4