Pompeo’s Delhi Visit to Lay Groundwork for Modi-Trump Meet at G20, Fix Indo-US Trade Issues
The US trade is likely to feature right at the top of Micheal Pompeo's agenda, with the country asking India to drop trade barriers.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI File photo)
New Delhi: US Secretary of State Micheal Pompeo will arrive in India on Tuesday for his first meeting with his counterpart S Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his win in the Lok Sabha elections. The US State Department has said the meetings will have an "ambitious agenda for the US-India strategic partnership."
The visit will also build the ground for US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Modi in Osaka, Japan later this week.
However, despite what is constantly reiterated by both sides – that it’s a relationship headed in the right direction – certain niggling issues have emerged between India and US and are likely to be discussed over the week when Pompeo meets Jaishankar in New Delhi and Modi meets Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan.
The US trade is likely to feature right at the top, with the country asking India to drop trade barriers. At the ‘India Ideas Summit’ in Washington DC earlier this month, Pompeo had said, "We remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people, and private sector companies."
India will once again emphasise on how it has worked over the last three years on reducing trade deficit and is willing to engage with the US on the issue. The issue of US withdrawing duty-free access to Indian exporters under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) will certainly be raised.
An important aspect of this meeting will be defence cooperation and strategic engagement with reference to Indo-Pacific and "The Quad", a meeting that was held recently in Bangkok.
But what may come as disappointment to New Delhi is America's seemingly hardened position on India's S-400 air defence system deal with Russia. In September, during the 2+2 dialogue, the Indian side was made to believe that America may go soft on this aspect with the understanding that strengthening of India's defence systems is in the interest of its partners engaged in the region.
However, just ahead of Pompeo's visit, a senior State Department official said that he will "encourage India to look at alternatives," adding that purchase of S-400s from Russia may attract sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
Just ahead of this meeting, the issue of data localisation has also assumed significance, with Pompeo saying, “We will also push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy."
MEA spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar had said last week that India remains engaged with US and will see how it can "dispel misconceptions" on the issue.
This, even as both sides reject the report that US will cap H1B visas for India as a response to data localisation. While US delinked both issues, India will continue to pursue the matter of tightening of H1B visa rules. India says it is engaged with both the US administration and the Congress over the matter.
And finally, what may emerge as casting a shadow over all these issues could be the current crisis with regards to Iran. While Pompeo heads to India after visiting Saudi Arabia and UAE, India would want to be briefed on the current situation in its neighbourhood.
The US has already discontinued the waiver on import of oil from Iran, and while New Delhi was looking at some relief and continues to say it will work as per its national interest, reports suggest that imports are being drastically cut down.
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