United States Senator Tim Kaine, reflecting on his recent trip to India, said he not only saw new opportunities to foster US-India trade and economic ties under the Narendra Modi government, but also saw the necessity to ante up joint counter-terrorism cooperation.
Kaine, chairman, Senate Foreign Relations
Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central
Asian Affairs, which has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the Indian Subcontinent, was accompanied by
Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who
serves on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees
on the four-day visit to India, and thereafter to
Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In an exclusive chat with India Abroad, Kaine chats
about the trip and the road ahead.
What was the purpose of your visit to India?
As chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on
Near Eastern and South and Central Asia, I had a hearing
this summer about the new chapter in US-India relationship and we heard from both administration witnesses and
private sector witnesses too.
So, from afar, I really viewed the transition to the Modi
government as opening up some new opportunities for
cooperation. I wanted to explore that in detail in two
areas — in the military/security area and then also in the
I walked away from the trip thinking my perception from
afar that there are new opportunities is right because there
really seemed to be a number of opportunities to deepen
the India-US relationship, whether you are talking government to government or private sector to the government.
For example, military procurement opportunities or private sector to private sector, there is a real excitement about
deepening the US-India relationship.
Could you give a gist of your discussions in New Delhi —
who you met with, what the dialogue centered on, and the
In Delhi, we met with senior governmental officials, parliamentarians, National Security Adviser (Ajit) Doval and
think tank experts, mostly those of whom had been connected with the government or Parliament some time in
the past, but were now kind of in the independent think
tank world, and we talked about a lot of different items, but
again, the big picture takeaway was that for a variety of reasons, this government seems more open to partnerships
with the United States, this government seems more open
to partnerships with the private sector.
So, for example, in some of the defense-related industries, there has been a strong tradition of only purchasing
weapons platforms for example from state-owned enterprises, but that is now changing and there are more opportunities for private enterprises — certainly Indian private
enterprises — but also others to participate.
We see an uptick in the number of exercises — military
exercises — that the US and India are doing jointly. India
joined the Pacific RIMPAC naval exercises this summer for
the first time and there are a lot of joint exercises that are
underway. And, then, we certainly see a common thread of
terrorism and so the opportunity to participate together in
counter-terrorism, sharing of intelligence, training, sharing
I visited two sites connected with the November 2008
attack in Mumbai by the LeT (Lashkar-e-Tayiba) group
and it’s very, very moving to go to the Café Leopold and
have dinner with the owners there and hear them talk
about what happened that night and moving to be at the
Oberoi Hotel and go to the memorial there for the patrons
and the staff members who were killed and talk with the
hotel folks who had been there and get their take on it.
So, obviously, both our nations bear the scars of terrorism
and that means we both have a strong desire to work
together to fight it.
The Senate was in recess during Modi’s visit for his sum-
mit with President Barack Obama, so you didn’t get an
opportunity to meet him. Were you disappointed that you
couldn’t meet him in Delhi?
I would have loved to have met the prime minister, but
his schedule would not accommodate that. But, of
course, we would have been thrilled to do that, but we
did have a very, very good session with National Security
Senator King and I serve on the Armed Services
Committee together and I am on Foreign Relations and
he’s on intel (Intelligence Committee), so the main purpose of this trip was the national security/military side,
and by meeting with Adviser Doval we felt that we were
taking to somebody who gave us good insight about the
As you know, Doval stayed back in Washington, DC after
he accompanied Modi here to DC, and met with his coun-
terpart and senior intelligence and Pentagon officials, etc.
Did he give you his take on how these meetings went and
how much of a strategic partnership is being envisaged in
these specific areas?
THE TERRORISM ISSUES ARE VERY TROUBLING TO INDIA AND THE UNITED STATES. MILLIONS OF INDIANS LIVE IN COUNTRIES THAT ARE MOST AFFECTED — IRAQ AND NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES THAT CAN BE MOST AFFECTED BY ISIL. EVEN AS WE WERE MEETING, THERE WERE A NUMBER OF INDIAN CONSTRUCTION WORKERS IN IRAQ WHOSE WHEREABOUTS WERE UNKNOWN WITH THE STRONG SUSPICION THAT THEY MIGHT BE UNDER CAPTIVITY BY ISIL SKIRMISHES ALONG THE LINE OF CONTROL HAPPEN EVERY YEAR. WHAT WE HEARD IN BOTH INDIA AND PAKISTAN WAS THAT THE ACTIVITIES THIS YEAR HAVE BEEN MORE AGGRESSIVE THAN IN THE PAST. CERTAINLY, THE IMMEDIATE DESIRE, SINCE CIVILIANS ARE AFFECTED, IS FOR THERE TO BE CEASING OF THESE ACTIVITIES ALONG THE BORDER. WE CERTAINLY SHARED OUR STRONG HOPE FOR THAT BOTH WITH INDIAN AND PAKISTANI OFFICIALS.
The US Senator, who was the first senior government official to visit India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, discusses South Asia with Aziz Haniffa 4Page A24 Tim Kaine