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John Kerry interacts with students at IIT-Delhi, speaks on terrorism, clean energy and South China Sea

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India.com |  Aditya Sharma on August 31, 2016  |

Being a seasoned diplomat, Kerry steered clear of making a partisan statement on foreign soil; something certain Indian leaders could learn from him.

New Delhi, August 31: As part of the second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi – the country’s premier engineering college – to interact with students. The discussion ranged from terrorism in India’s neighbourhood to the dispute in South China Sea, and even the environment, including the need to shift to clean energy. While most of Kerry’s speech focused on how far relations between India and the United States have come, and as the “two largest democracies in the world” they share common values, there were a few things that stood out in his interaction with the students. The moderator, Shekhar Gupta began the interaction with a question about the upcoming presidential elections in US where the two front-runners are Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Gupta’s question implied that Trump’s accession to the presidency would be fatal to their country and by extension, the world.

Being a seasoned diplomat, Kerry steered clear of making a partisan statement on foreign soil; something certain Indian leaders could learn from him. As the conversation proceeded, Gupta spoke of polarisation which is prevalent not just in the US but in India as well. Kerry’s response to this was that while it “reflects intolerance” and “frustration with governance”, it isn’t new to their country. In a time when information is abundant, and available at a person’s fingertips, there is bound to be misinformation. His suggested that a more efficient way to tackle polarisation would be “to deliver services and decisions faster and more effectively”.  One of the students asked the Secretary of State about the tribunal’s ruling in South China Sea. Very conveniently, the top american diplomat forgot how the United States not only refused to recognise any inter-governmental court’s ruling, but also barred them from hearing cases involving the US, unless explicitly stated by the US government. Moreover, none of the major world powers have accepted by tribunal ruling when it is against them.  While he rejected the idea of military action in South China Sea, given the defence treaties between the US and other disputing parties in the region, a confrontation between two military giants over the dispute is a possible outcome.

On terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Kerry urged India to be more supportive and understanding of Pakistan’s plight as it combated extremist groups on its own soil. The US Secretary of State, by no means sent a “strong message” to Pakistan. He did concede that terrorists are actively operating on Pakistani soil, but was quick to add that it is also the biggest victim of terrorism.  When asked where India lacks in cooperation with other world powers, he cited India’s dependence on coal for energy. While the environment remains a major concern for people across the world, it seems hypocritical of the US, since it was one of the countries whose expanding economy was fueled by thermal power. Times have changes, and so has the environment. India will have to seek alternatives and move towards clean energy, but the onus for the transition must remain with the world powers, such as the United States. India and US have made great progress in the last decade. There is a stronger understanding and mutual respect for each other’s interests. New Delhi has become more bold in asserting its interest and has been pushing to expand its diplomatic scope. Defense treaties and economic agreements have allowed US to access one of the largest markets in world, while at the same time opening India to investment of foreign capital. – Courtesy


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