WASHINGTON: Washington hauls India before a World Trade Organization dispute panel saying its national solar mission norms discriminate against American companies. India files a complaint before WTO accusing the US of erecting trade barriers by hiking fees for guest worker visas to unreasonable levels.

Between these commercial disputes is the political wrangle over the Obama administration's backing of a US panel to study religious freedom in India -- for which New Delhi denies visas - which the BJP government sees as a thinly-disguised pinprick engineered by liberal elements in the US.

And then there's the small matter of the Obama administration, like its predecessor Bush dispensation, being unmindful of India's concern while supplying F16 fighter jets to a country that unremittingly backs terrorist groups, followed by India's defence minister dissing Washington's proposals for joint patrols in Asia-Pacific.

One would never guess any of these issues featured in the talks between India's foreign secretary S Jaishankar and his US interlocutors on Monday and Tuesday judging by the word from the Indian Embassy that his meetings "focussed on further consolidating bilateral relations in the year ahead and enhancing convergence on regional and global issues."

But apparently, friends can live with differences, and in keeping with the long history of wrangles between the two sides during the best of times and the worst of times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Washington later this month, ostensibly for the Nuclear Security Summit, but also to enhance bilateral ties in other areas, all the aforementioned wrinkles notwithstanding. "Of course, we discuss differences. This is a robust relationship which can endure differences," was the broad message from the India side as the foreign secretary headed off to New York on his way home.

That the Prime Minister's visit will go beyond the nuclear summit was evident in the read-out on the visit that spoke of both sides agreeing to work for achieving concrete results in key areas of bilateral cooperation, including defence (despite minister Parikkar's back-and-forth) and trade and investment (despite Washington's perpetual unhappiness over India's lack of concession), in connection with which Jaishankr met the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker, US trade representative Mike Froman, and deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken, among others.

Significantly, word that the two sides discussed "US-India collaboration against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and other terrorist threats," came not from the Indian Embassy's guarded statement, but from the National Security Council whose spokesman Ned Price who said, "Building on their leaders' commitment to make the US-India partnership a defining relationship for the 21st Century, they agreed to deepen their already close collaboration on these issues." It's possibly the first time Washington has spoken so openly and bluntly about collaborating against terror groups on whom it has taken little action beyond putting them on terror lists.

In the US Congress, Embassy officials said, the foreign secretary had meetings with chairman of senate foreign relations committee Senator Bob Corker (who has opposed the F16 sale to Pakistan), chairman of senate armed services committee senator John McCain and chairman of senate intelligence committee senator Richard Burr to exchange views on bilateral, regional and international issues.

Courtesy Times of India