New Delhi: The India-US partnership is crucial for achieving global peace and prosperity for up to half a century, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said on Thursday but hinted at possible irritants like India’s ties with Iran that could crimp relations.

In a carefully crafted speech aimed at not ruffling feathers in New Delhi, Haley underlined the importance of the India-US relationship saying: “Perhaps no other partnership has as much potential for global peace and prosperity over the next 10, 20, or 50 years."

“The way this (Trump) administration in the United States feels is that the relationship is stronger now and the opportunities are greater now," she said later in remarks after the speech. “The Trump administration specifically puts a lot of value on the US-India partnership not because of where we have been but because of where we are going," Haley said in response to a question on whether the US-India partnership was running out of steam, seemingly plagued by many irritants.

In her speech, Haley focused only on the positives of the India-US economic relations—the fact that trade had doubled over the last decade and the common commitment of the two countries to “open, market-based economies"—and not on the trade deficits and high tariffs that US president Donald Trump has been spotlighting. Again, while lauding India’s record in UN peacekeeping and referring to the UN reform agenda on the subject, Haley did not refer to India’s bid become a permanent member of the UN Security Council—something India has been publically campaigning for.

On Iran, Haley contrasted India’s record as “a responsible steward" of nuclear technology with that of Iran which she said funded terrorism and pursued a dangerous nuclear weapons programme.

The US was in talks with India on the subject, she said adding that “I think India also recognises the threats of Iran. We understand that logistics come into play with Iran but we have to always make sure the priority is peace and security and as long as the priority is peace and security the US is going to continue to work with our partners to make sure we are all pushing Iran to be a good accountable international neighbour," she said.

India views Iran as a gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia besides a key source of energy. In a recent press conference, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said that India would only adhere to UN sanctions and not unilateral strictures placed by countries.

On China, Haley again sought to underline the difference between the Asian giant and India stating that Beijing did not share US and India’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. “This makes China’s expansion of loans and investments in countries in the region a matter of concern for many of us," she said adding that China’s failure to respect the rights of its people and the rule of law would limit the United States’ relationship with the country.

“The future of the Indo-Pacific region, then, will depend on how democratic nations address international economic and strategic threats. That is why India is not only a friend of the United States, but also a vital strategic partner," she said, signalling the need for a closer partnership with India for possibly balancing China’s rise. With India setting in a motion a “course correction" in ties with China with Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelling to Wuhan on 27 April, it seemed unlikely that India would be willing to play any role that would upset China.

Prasannata Patwa contributed to this story.

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