Political / Delhi gears up for possible Pompeo visit

The Hindu : May 29, 2019, 10:48 AM

Ahead of the first bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump in two years, the government is preparing for a possible visit by a high-level delegation, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the third week of June, sources have confirmed to The Hindu.

Diplomatic sources said that a stopover in New Delhi by Mr. Pompeo on his way to the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, “is under consideration” by the new government. Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump will be among the several world leaders attending the summit on June 28-29.

While the purpose of Mr. Pompeo’s visit will be to lay the ground for the Trump-Modi meeting on the sidelines of the summit, both the U.S. Secretary of State and the External Affairs Minister have several urgent issues to iron out. These include the logjam over a trade package and U.S. sanction threats over Russian military hardware, as well as its demand that India end all oil imports from Iran and Venezuela. They will also set the course for the India-U.S. 2+2 talks of Foreign and Defence Ministers expected later this year, officials said.

India has thus far put off retaliatory tariffs announced after U.S. hiked tariffs on several goods and declared it would withdraw India’s GSP status for exports. A visit by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in early May was unable to make a breakthrough on trade issues, but a public address by Mr. Pompeo in mid-June may present a clearer picture on the road ahead.

Mr. Pompeo has been invited to address the U.S.- India Business Council’s (USIBC) annual “India Ideas Summit” being held on June 12-13 in Washington, and sources say he is likely to accept. The theme this year for the summit, which will bring together hundreds of Indian and American businesspersons, will be “Connecting Cities and States”. The Secretary of State’s speech is likely to focus on attracting Indian investment and purchase orders for the U.S. to balance the trade deficit, which is presently in India’s favour.

Preparing for Trump

During Mr. Pompeo’s visit, Indian officials are also likely to broach the subject of a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, who had been invited by Mr. Modi when they met in Washington in June 2017.

Since then the two leaders have met only twice, once for a pull aside at the East Asia Summit in November 2017, and a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in November 2018. Mr. Trump had declined an invitation from the government to visit India as the chief guest for Republic Day in 2019, but officials do not rule out another invitation for Mr. Trump to visit India in 2020 or earlier.

On the issue of Iran sanctions, India has yet to give a firm commitment to stop all oil imports, although Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harshvardhan Shringla told reporters last week that no oil has been imported since May 2, when the U.S. deadline for “zeroing out” imports kicked in.