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Nuclear and trade issues are likely to dominate talks as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lands in Delhi on Wednesday night for the Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue. But Mr. Kerry's bigger mission, as the first political Cabinet-level visitor from the Obama administration, is to press the `restart button' in ties that have seen no forward movement in almost a year.
"Since former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit in September last year, neither side has had any significant forward moving discussions," a senior official told The Hindu .
Ahead of Mr. Kerry's visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday to discuss the government's stand on the various issues confronting India-U.S. relations.
On Thursday, Mr. Kerry will be meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj along with a full delegation for the fifth Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue.
Mr. Kerry will also meet Mr. Modi and "lay the groundwork for his visit to Washington" on September 30, according to a statement by the U.S. State Department. On Friday, Mr. Kerry will meet Mr. Jaitley, and sources said discussions on defence purchases that the U.S. is pushing, including helicopters, missiles, and ultra-light howitzer guns, are expected to be positive.
During the strategic dialogue, India and the U.S. will try and iron out the issues in conducting civil nuclear trade. Despite interest from companies like Westinghouse and GE, trade has been blocked over U.S. concerns on India's suppliers' liability clause. India has already been able to cross similar hurdles with France and Russia.
However, former diplomat and BJP leader Hardeep Puri also said the U.S. must be sensitive to India's concerns on both nuclear issues and trade liberalisation. "We cannot realise the full potential of our important bilateral relationship and global partnership unless our American partners are sensitive to our red lines as well," he told The Hindu.
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