NEW DELHI, June 24 (UPI) -- U.S. and Indian leaders want to push the countries' relationship "to new heights" and expand cooperation, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.
Kerry, in New Delhi for the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue that began in 2009, also said India could play a larger role in negotiations with Afghanistan and Iran -- and Washington would have India's back in Afghan developments.
"We can take satisfaction in the fact that within the few years since we raised our relationship to the strategic footing, our bilateral dialogue is wide-ranging to the extent of taking an all-of-government character," said Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
Kerry noted it was the first time he and Khurshid together led a discussion "and both of us are particularly eager and committed to taking this relationship to new heights."
"India and the United States, two of the most powerful economies in the world, two democracies, two countries that share so much in terms of our values and our aspirations, we believe have an opportunity to be able to set a new standard for cooperation on a number of challenges that we all face," he said.
He said the two countries were expanding bilateral cooperation to "new horizons" such as energy while strengthening existing avenues of cooperation in health, science and technology, education, space, defense, and peaceful nuclear energy.
Kerry and Khurshid also discussed Afghanistan and what type of role India could play in negotiations.
"We need to be on the same page, we need to consult, and we need to share with each other, which is the attitude that we have, because we have a dialogue with the United States of America," Khurshid said. "Besides, as part of our strategic relationship, we have a trilateral between Afghanistan, United States, and ourselves.
"The secretary has said he will ensure that none of the concerns of India are overlooked or undermined," Khurshid said.
Kerry said the United States would work closely with Afghan President Hamid Karzai concerning long-term peace, once discussions begin.
"So this is an Afghan-led process, and it is an Afghan-led process that will only negotiate under certain conditions," Kerry said of talks with Taliban militants that Karzai suspended until certain conditions concerning leadership and the Taliban facility in Doha, Qatar, are met.
"It is better to explore the possibilities of having a peaceful resolution and an inclusion in a political process if it is possible," Kerry said.
He said Afghanistan could turn to India for advice during the upcoming elections.
Kerry also announced Vice President Joe Biden will visit India in July to further discussions.