India, US in talks to prepare for PM visit

New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) India and the US are in discussions to plan for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to America in the “near future”.

This was revealed by US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai at separate briefings. Mathai and Sherman met earlier in the day to prepare for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s June 24 visit to India for the bilateral strategic dialogue.

Mathai, addressing a press briefing, said there was “no rift” in India-US ties.

“There isn’t any rift”, he said to a question, and added that both sides are in discussion over the visit of Manmohan Singh to the US.

Earlier, Sherman at a media briefing said the US “hopes to welcome” the prime minister to the US “at some point in the near future”, adding “because this is a strong, powerful relationship and not only in the region but in the world”.

To a question on India’s request for access to Mumbai attack plotter David Headley, the US official said that “both our governments will work through this in whatever way is appropriate”.

Asked whether India would get a waiver again as it has substantially cut Iranian oil imports, she said India has made “tremendous progress” in reducing oil imports from Iran.

Sherman said India has “stood side-by-side with all of us in the international community to say that Iran should not acquire a nuclear weapon…We greatly appreciate all of the leadership that India has provided, including their enforcement of sanctions”.

She added that a decision on waiver would be “made shortly. And all of the data is certainly pointing in a positive direction.”

Sherman said she had had “very productive” meetings with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Mathai in the morning.

Stating that Kerry was “very much looking forward” to his India visit, Sherman said both governments were working at all levels on a number of projects dealing with global economics, global strategic security, energy, climate change, people-to-people and regional cooperation.

She termed the depth and breadth of India-US relations as “extraordinary”.

To a question on Afghanistan’s request for more security assistance from India, she said India is “a crucial and key player in the future security and development of Afghanistan, both bilaterally and regionally”.

Mentioning the development assistance by India in Afghanistan and engagement in regional dialogue forums, she said: “Anything will be positive when India is engaged.”

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