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US house resolution commits to working with new Indian government

Washington, June 3 (IANS) As the US reaches out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a dozen lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan congressional resolution committing to working with his government “to advance shared values and interests”.

Co-sponsored among others by lone Indian-American House member Ami Bera and the first Hindu-American lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard, the resolution also seeks “to further strengthen our strategic partnership with India, including in the defence, trade, and security arenas”.

The resolution “congratulates the people of India on holding the largest democratic exercise in history of the world”.

Introduced by Republican Aaron Schock, the resolution’s other co-sponsors included chairman of the House foreign affairs committee Ed Royce and the top Democrat on the panel Eliot Engel.

Schock and fellow Republican Cynthia Lummis, who had both visited Gujarat before the elections, and a couple of other lawmakers also issued statements to voice their commitment to “continuing to strengthen our strategic partnership”.

The resolution “marks a shift in US policy and signals growing congressional support, puts forth the official position of the House of Representatives on this matter of national and global importance”, Schock said.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that when Secretary of State John Kerry called new Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj last week to congratulate her, he also invited her to visit the US at the earliest opportunity.

“I’m not aware of that being scheduled yet, but we’ll look forward to that,” she said. “So the next step will be scheduling her visit to the United States.”

Kerry had also “reaffirmed the US commitment to our strategic partnership” and conveyed “our desire to continue broadening and deepening our bilateral ties”.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, will be in New Delhi June 6-9 “to meet a range of officials”. But Psaki did not have the details as yet.

The house resolution comes even as a US expert suggested that the Obama Administration must signal its readiness to do business with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BJP’s victory in the Indian election “presents an opportunity for reinvigorating US-Indian ties, which have suffered from a recent state of malaise”, according to Lisa Curtis, a South Asia expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“For this to happen, the Obama Administration must signal that it is ready to do business with” Modi, she writes noting that Washington was late in engaging with the BJP leader.

But “the US must first signal its willingness and commitment to collaborating with the new government-and that it will not dwell on the controversy of the 2002 Gujarat riots, which led the US to revoke Modi’s tourist visa in 2005,” Curtis suggested.

Making clear that he will be welcomed by the US Administration, President Barack Obama “should signal his willingness to meet with Modi in Washington on the heels of the September 2014 United Nations General Assembly,” she wrote.

“This would help set the foundation for improved ties and mend fences over the revoked visa issue,” Curtis said.

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