Mike Pompeo’s India visit is to broaden, deepen India-US relationship, says official

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Published: June 22, 2019 7:29:54 AM

During his visit, Pompeo will meet Prime Minister Modi and his new Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, whom the official described as one of the visionaries behind the expansion of the US-India strategic partnership.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to India next week is to deepen and broaden the bilateral relationship and to kick-start a dialogue towards the resolution of some of the key issues in trade ties, the Trump administration said Friday. Pompeo will be visiting India from June 25 to June 27. His visit comes ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan on June 28-29.

“The purpose of the trip for the Secretary (of State) is to broaden and deepen our relationship,” a senior State Department official told reporters in a conference call. The official was giving a preview of Pompeo’s India visit which is the first highest level visit from a Trump administration official after Prime Minister Modi was sworn in for his second term last month.

During his visit, Pompeo will meet Prime Minister Modi and his new Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, whom the official described as one of the visionaries behind the expansion of the US-India strategic partnership. “Modi’s historic win and sweeping mandate in recent elections, we believe, offer a unique opportunity for him to implement his vision for a strong and prosperous India, that plays a leading role on the global stage,” said the official who wished anonymity. The Trump administration wants to seize this moment early in his second term and accelerate the upward trajectory of the relationship, the official said.

While there is convergence of views and interest of the two countries on a host of strategic and defence issues including the Indo-Pacific region, the official acknowledged there were differences between India and the US on a number of trade related issues. American companies have concerns about market access and the lack of a level playing field in important sectors and the recent Indian government measures such as increasing tariffs on a range of products, restricting e-commerce operation and limiting the free flow of data are particularly problematic, not just for US companies but for Indian companies and their long-term competitiveness, the official said.

Observing that the Trump administration wants both the two countries to thrive, the official said Pompeo during his meetings in New Delhi will “convey” the “extraordinary potential to realise the collective strength of our economy” and would insist on “fair and reciprocal approach” to trade relationship. Referring to the recent speech of Pompeo to the US India Business Council, the official said the Secretary of State thinks that the relationship has great potential to advance the security and prosperity of the US and India in the Indo-Pacific region and the world.

Responding to a question, the official said this was the time when the Trump administration will be encouraging India to look at alternative to the S-400 defense missile deal with the Russians. Noting that trade would be an important part of the conversation, the official said Pompeo was going to pester the new administration of Prime Minister Modi “to make headway, to jump start a discussion on trade” to quickly resolve the longstanding differences and irritants in bilateral relationship. “This is not something that’s going to be solved in one meeting, but being able to kick-start a serious process, a credible process and a candid process is going to be critical,” the official said in response to a question on bilateral trade relationship.

The Trump administration has been engaged in conversation with India on trade-related issues for a long time, but without success in reaching the kind of reciprocal and fair trade that this administration aspires to, the official said. “So we need to get a conversation started quickly,” the official said, adding that the two countries have so much to gain by working together. India has announced a hike in customs duties on as many as 28 US products, including almond, apple, pulses and walnut, in response to higher tariffs imposed by Washington on Indian products like steel and aluminium. The commerce ministry on Friday made public India’s intention to go ahead with imposition of duty on American products, a move New Delhi had previously deferred in the hope of striking a trade deal.

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