Before moving to London, Sarna was Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs where he oversaw the successful hosting last October of the India-Africa Forum Summit that was attended by a record number of 53 African countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally very happy with the organisation of the Summit and had congratulated External Affairs Sushma Swaraj for it.
It is clear Modi wanted someone in Washington and co-development”, Sushma Swaraj said the next step was to define the benefits associated
with India’s designation as a “Major Defence Partner” of the US during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to America in June. “This would spur defence industry collaboration between India and the US and help India play the desired role as a net provider of security in the region,” she said. “We have taken some steps to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism as envisaged in the joint declaration issued during the last meeting of this mechanism. This would be an important element of our deliberations,” she added. In his opening remarks, US Secretary of State John Kerry said India and the US had deepened cooperation in defence, combating cyber terrorism and in counter-terrorism. “We hope to see our civil nuclear co-operation take shape in the form of new reactors that deliver reliable electricity to Indian households,” Kerry said.
“We are working to bring new technologies to help India meet its ambitious renewable energy targets,” he said.
Announcing that this would be the last time he was leading this dialogue, Kerry added: “I’m very confident that we’ll continue to strengthen what President Obama has called ‘defining partnership of the 21st century’.”
The launch of the India US Innovation Forum on the sidelines of the ongoing talks here is a good beginning in the exchange of ideas and best practices that would help entrepreneurs of both countries, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Aug 30 in her opening remarks at the second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue here.
“India-US collaboration in strengthening innovation clusters for mutual benefits is a step in the right direction. Both sides should identify some high-growth potential hubs in the two countries and facilitate partnerships in areas of technology, design, among others,” she said.
Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj are co-chairs of the dialogue on the Indian side along with John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on the American side. She noted that there had been significant progress on the recommendations of the India-US CEO Forum as well as under the four work streams of standards, ease of doing business, innovation and entrepreneurship and infrastructure and smart cities. Noting that India had jumped from a rank of 81 last year to 66 in 2016 in the Global Innovation Index report released here earlier this month, Sitharaman said there has been substantial bilateral engagement on standards.
“Confederation of Indian Industry is progressing with the development of the Standards portal in collaboration with American National Standards Institute and we expect to launch the first version in September 2016,” she said.
The minister also said India is working closely with the US and other key stakeholders in international fora like the WTO, World Bank, IMF and the UN Security Council.
“We are negotiating some important regional and mega regional free trade agreements with our partners like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and India-EUBTIA (European Union-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement),” she added.Sitharaman also said that India’s concerns on the issue of difficulty in obtaining visas by Indians seeking to work in the US had been conveyed to the American government.
“Some of our stakeholders have raised concerns regarding measures which have the potential to act as barriers to the movement of natural persons and professionals. We could hope that specific measures like these, having potential to adversely impact our trade, are avoided,” she said. Making her brief opening remarks, Pritzker said that the US and India had now developed a “deeper, more strategic bilateral relationship.” “We are now asked to be commercial diplomats,” she said. “We now trade more with each other, invest more in each other, do more business with each other,” she added. Bilateral trade has currently reached the level of more than $105 billion and the two countries have set the target of taking it to $500 billion.