US hopes crisis with India ending

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States (US) voiced hope on Monday that a crisis with India over the arrest of a diplomat has ended, as officials from the two countries met to discuss unrelated issues.

Relations between India and the US, which had steadily warmed since the end of the Cold War, plunged on Dec 12 when authorities arrested New York consular official Devyani Khobragade over treatment of her domestic servant.

In a deal between the two countries, Ms Khobragade was allowed to return to India last week just as a grand jury indicted her on two counts.

"Clearly this has been a challenging time in the US-India relationship. We expect that this time will come to a closure," State Department spokesman Marie Harf told reporters.

"I think we're increasingly getting towards that point and that together we will now take significant steps with the Indian government to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place," she said.

Ms Harf said that Ms Rose Gottemoeller, the acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, met on Monday with India's ambassador to Washington, Mr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to discuss cooperation on nonproliferation and other defense issues.

"This is the kind of business we just need to get back to, quite frankly, now that this is hopefully coming to an end," Ms Harf said.

Mr Jaishankar, whose arrival in Washington coincided with the crisis, has also been meeting members of the US Congress.

India, which sees itself as a growing international player, has taken retaliatory action against the US including asking for the departure of a US diplomat from New Delhi. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz delayed a trip to India that had been scheduled this week.

India voiced particular outrage that Ms Khobragade underwent a strip-search, treatment which US authorities described as standard but which would be unthinkable in India toward an educated woman.