Biden on visit to fire up US-India ties

July 22, 2013 7:24 am
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US Vice President Joe Biden speaks about US - Asia and India economic and trade policy at George Washington University on July 18, 2013/AFP
US Vice President Joe Biden speaks about US – Asia and India economic and trade policy at George Washington University on July 18, 2013/AFP
NEW DELHI, Jul 22 – US Vice President Joe Biden was due in India on Monday at the start of a four-day visit designed to revive momentum in flagging diplomatic ties and fire up bilateral trade.

Biden, the first vice president to visit India in three decades, will meet senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi before heading to the financial hub Mumbai to deliver a keynote speech on the economy.

In an interview published in Monday’s Times of India newspaper, Biden said the world’s two biggest democracies had a “tremendous capability to work together” but should be doing more.

He also emphasised that he wanted to see an acceleration in bilateral trade, which he said was on track to meet $100 billion this year.

“The United States has welcomed India’s emergence and both nations have profited from it,” the vice president said.

“India’s rise as a global economic power is one of the most powerful stories of the 21st century,” he added.

The announcement of Biden’s visit was made during a trip to India last month by Secretary of State John Kerry, who sought to assuage Indian fears about the aftermath of next year’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

India, which has spent more than two billion dollars of aid in Afghanistan, fears any return of the Taliban, hardline Islamists who were strong allies of Pakistan before being toppled in 2001.

Nascent talks between the US and Taliban were due to start last month after the Islamists opened an office in Doha, but they collapsed before even getting off the ground.

In his meeting with Indian leaders, Biden is expected to reiterate that the US will not back any peace process involving the Taliban unless they renounce violence.

“If the Taliban are to have any role in Afghanistan’s political future, they will need to break ties with al-Qaeda, stop supporting violence and accept the Afghan constitution as part of the outcomes of any negotiated peace settlement,” he told the Times of India.

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