News / US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s first stop on Delhi visit is PM Modi, S-400 deal waiver on table

Hindustan Times : Jun 26, 2019, 11:28 AM

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday as the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems deal with Russia, cooperation on trade security, energy and space are likely to figure in talks with Indian officials during his three-day visit.

Pompeo, who arrived in India on Tuesday night, met Prime Minister Modi before his talks with external affairs minister S Jaishankar over a working lunch on Wednesday. His visit comes before a meeting between PM Modi and US president Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan’s Osaka on June 28.

“Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership @SecPompeo called on PM @narendramodi to exchange views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship. PM will meet President @realDonaldTrump on the sidelines of the upcoming #G20OsakaSummit,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

The US secretary of state will also meet national security adviser Ajit Doval in South Block with multiple issues, including terror and defence, slated to be on the table. Later, he will meet business leaders and deliver a speech at the India International Centre.

Pompeo’s visit to India is aimed at deepening strategic relationship with the largest democratic country of the world, the US had said on Tuesday. A senior US administration official had also said the secretary of state hopes to “kickstart” a “credible” and “candid” process to resolve the growing trade difference with India during his time in New Delhi.

The US state department had described India and the United States as “natural strategic partners” that shared an “unbreakable” bond, but it also acknowledged trade differences.

The S-400 deal, threatened with sanctions by the US, is expected to figure in talks on Wednesday between Jaishankar and Pompeo. People familiar with the developments have said India believes it meets the criteria for a waiver from US sanctions on the $5.2-billion deal with Russia for the S-400 missile defence system and New Delhi cannot “wish away” its long-standing defence relations with Moscow.

The US has already acted against Turkey and China for acquiring the S-400 system and sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) are expected to kick in once India makes the first payment to Russia.

Pompeo’s visit also comes amidst mounting trade differences between the two countries with recent escalations being India announcing retaliatory tariffs on imports from the United States and the United States ending duty-free imports from India under the Generalized System of Preferences programme.

Though there is no structured agenda for the talks between Pompeo and Jaishankar and the entire spectrum of India-US ties will be on the table, the people cited above said the Indo-Pacific is also expected to come up, with the Indian side expected to push for an inclusive policy that averts confrontations in the region.

While discussions will include shared objectives in a free and open Indo-Pacific region, ongoing security ties and energy ties and space, trade could take up a larger share of the talks. The officials acknowledged “disagreements” which will be addressed as democracies do, through honest discussions.