Nisha Biswal, the U.S. assistant secretary for South and Central
Asian Affairs, will visit Bangalore and New Delhi from March 4-6,
the State Department said. It will be her first trip to India since
taking up her position last year.
"During her visit, Assistant Secretary Biswal will seek to further
broaden and deepen the U.S.-India relationship, which President
Obama has called "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st
century," the State Department said in a statement.
Biswal would discuss efforts to foster innovation and high-tech ties
in Bangalore before traveling to Delhi for talks on defense,
security and economic cooperation, it said.
"The breadth and quality of our strategic partnership with India
attests to the underlying strength and salience of our relations,"
Biswal said in the statement.
Biswal had planned to visit India in January, but her trip was
postponed as relations between Washington and Delhi took a dive due
to the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul in New
India was furious about the diplomat's arrest, handcuffing and
strip-search in New York after she was accused by U.S. prosecutors
of underpaying her nanny and lying on a visa application.
The dispute plunged bilateral ties between countries that call each
other "strategic partners" to their lowest point in 16 years before
a deal was struck and Khobragade returned to India.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also postponed a visit in
January, but is now due to visit India from March 10-12.
Despite the rescheduled visits, the two countries have clashed in
recent days on trade issues, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's
government reluctant to be seen bowing to U.S. pressure ahead of a
May general election.
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India has decided to block U.S. investigations into its trade
policies and patent laws and prepare for a battle at the World Trade
Organization (WTO). There are already 14 past or current WTO cases
between India and the United States, whose bilateral trade in goods
measured $63.7 billion last year.
A further complication stems from a U.S. decision in 2005 to deny a
visa to Narendra Modi, the opposition leader widely tipped to become
India's next prime minister.
Modi was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 when Hindu mobs killed at
least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Rights groups and
political rivals have long alleged he allowed the attacks to occur
or actively encouraged them.
Modi has denied this and an Indian Supreme Court inquiry found no
evidence to prosecute him.
Officials and analysts say that if Modi becomes prime minister, the
United States is unlikely to uphold the visa ban.
The U.S. Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, met with Modi on
February 13 signaling the end of a long estrangement between him and
the United States.
The 2013 human rights report on India issued by the State Department
on Thursday dropped a reference to Modi that had been in the 2012
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, editing by G Crosse)
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