(Adds details and background)
WASHINGTON Jan 8 U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest
Moniz will no longer travel to India as planned next week, an
official of the U.S. Energy Department said on Wednesday, the
most serious repercussion yet in a row over the arrest of an
Indian diplomat in New York.
"I can confirm that Secretary Moniz is no longer traveling
to India next week," the official told Reuters. "We have been in
conversation with Indian counterparts about the dates, and we
have agreed to hold the dialogue in the near future at a
mutually convenient date."
Moniz's trip is the latest and most serious casualty in an
escalating row over the treatment of Devyani Khobragade, India's
deputy consul in New York. India is furious at her arrest,
handcuffing and strip search last month after being accused by
U.S. prosecutors of underpaying her nanny and lying on a visa
Nearly a month on, the row has started to affect the wider
relationship between the world's two most populous democracies,
with one high-level visit by a senior U.S. official already
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Desai
Biswal delayed her first visit to India, which was due on Jan.
6, to avoid it becoming embroiled in the dispute.
While both sides have said their bilateral relationship is
important and will not be allowed to deteriorate, the row over
Khobragade, which should not have been more than an easily
resolved irritation, has plunged the two countries into a crisis
described by Indian media as the worst since New Delhi tested a
nuclear device in 1998.
The aim of Moniz's trip was to hold talks to promote trade
and investment in the energy sector. The talks usually include
discussions of civil nuclear trade between India and the United
The Energy Department official called the U.S.-India energy
partnership a key element of the overall strategic partnership
between Washington and New Delhi.
"In view of the importance of these matters to the overall
bilateral relationship, we look forward to holding the Energy
Dialogue at a mutually convenient date in the near future that
will permit both sides to deliver concrete outcomes for both
governments and our two peoples," he said.
India and the United States signed an agreement on nuclear
energy cooperation in 2009, during the administration of former
U.S. President George W. Bush, a high point in a relationship
that is widely considered to have drifted since.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Writing by David Brunnstrom;
Editing by Sandra Maler)