| WASHINGTON, July 16
WASHINGTON, July 16 America's top diplomat and
the head of its Defense Department will visit India in coming
weeks seeking to revitalize a relationship the United States
sees as a crucial counterbalance in Asia to an increasingly
Secretary of State John Kerry will represent the United
States in an annual session of Strategic Dialogue with India
scheduled for July 31, and he will be followed to New Delhi by
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in early August, U.S. officials
said on Wednesday.
They will be the most senior U.S. officials to visit India
for talks with the new government of Prime Minister Narendra
Modi since his May election. Modi is expected to visit the
United States in September.
In testimony for a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations, Nisha Biswal, the U.S. assistant secretary of
state for South Asia, noted that President Barack Obama had said
the U.S.-India relationship would be "one of the defining
partnerships of the 21st century."
She also said Modi had told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Bill Burns in India last week that the world would benefit from
closer U.S.-India ties.
"Across the board ... we have an opportunity here to engage
more robustly with in India in how the Asian landscape unfolds,"
she said. "And we look forward to engaging with the new
government in that agenda."
Biswal referred to planned joint military exercises
involving India, the United States and Japan, a country with a
growing strategic rivalry with China in East Asia.
"We see opportunities for increasing the collaboration
across Southeast Asia," she said.
"We are engaging more frequently in consultations and
dialogue with India on ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations) and look forward to increased and more frequent
consultations across the East Asian sphere," Biswal said,
"A rising India is in some ways going to be an ameliorating
influence on China, in China's own growth and China's own
behavior in the region."
Amy Searight, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense
for South and Southeast Asia, said there was "a real strategic
convergence" as India looked east in Asia and the United States
pursued its "rebalance" to the continent.
"We both are looking to the challenges in East Asia today,
of which a rising China is certainly a major part," she said.
Searight said there were growing relationships between India
and Japan and India and the ASEAN countries, including Vietnam,
a country which has been playing out a bitter territorial
rivalry with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Referring to India's growing relationships with other Asian
countries, Searight added: "We want to capitalize on that ... we
want to support that activity."
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)