February 26, 2020 4:43:36 am
US President Donald Trump, on his first State visit to India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided Tuesday to elevate ties between their countries to a “comprehensive global strategic partnership”, giving it broader scope and scale.
Trump, who held bilateral talks with Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, announced a defence deal of more than USD 3 billion under which India will buy US military equipment including MH-60R naval and AH-64E Apache helicopters.
While no trade deal was signed, Modi said Trump and he had agreed to initiate negotiations for a bigger deal. Trump, on his part, said they have made “tremendous progress” on a comprehensive trade agreement and he is optimistic they will reach a deal.
According to the joint statement issued late Tuesday, the two leaders said they looked forward to “early conclusion” of defence cooperation enabling agreements including Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and “expressed interest in the concept of the Blue Dot Network, a multi-stakeholder initiative that will bring governments, the private sector, and civil society together to promote high-quality trusted standards for global infrastructure development”.
They added the Haqqani network and Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) to the list of terror groups against whom they “called for concerted action”. Denouncing “any use of terrorist proxies” and strongly condemning cross-border terrorism in all its forms, they called on Pakistan to “ensure that no territory under its control is used to launch terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot”.
The US reaffirmed support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group “without any delay”, and the two sides supported “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process that results in a sustainable peace; cessation of violence; elimination of terrorist safe havens; and preservation of the gains of the last 18 years”.
Earlier, Modi said: “President Trump and I have taken a decision to raise our partnership to the level of a comprehensive global strategic partnership.” He said relations are “people-driven and they are people-centric”.
Announcing the defence deal, Trump said: “Cooperation in ultra-modern defence equipment and platforms will enhance India’s defence capabilities. Our defence manufacturers are becoming a part of each other’s supply chains.”
On trade, Modi said: “As far as bilateral trade is concerned, our Commerce ministers have had very positive discussions. President Trump and I, we have both agreed that the understanding reached by our Commerce ministers will take it forward to give it legal shape. We have also agreed to initiate negotiations for a bigger deal. We are confident that this will yield good results that will be in our mutual interest.”
Trump said: “Another major focus of my discussions with Prime Minister Modi is forging bilateral economic relationships that is fair and reciprocal. Our teams have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement and I am optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries.”
Modi said India and the US are “committed to openness and fair and balanced trade in the economic sector”. “Over the last three years, our bilateral trade has witnessed double-digit growth and it has also become more balanced,” he said.
“Whether it is energy, civil aircraft, defence or higher education, over the last four or five years, just these four sectors have contributed USD 70 billion to the relationship between India and the US. A lot of this is due to the policies and the willingness of President Trump, and I am fully confident that in the years to come, this will further grow,” he said.
Trump said, “Since I took office, US exports to India are up nearly 60 per cent and exports of high-quality American energy have grown by — thank you very much — 500 per cent. That’s great.”
The two leaders also spoke on increasing cooperation in the area of homeland security and in fighting international crime. “Today, the decision taken on homeland security will further strengthen this cooperation. We have also taken a decision to further increase our efforts in order to hold supporters of terrorism responsible,” Modi said.
Giving priority to the fight against the drug and opioid crisis, he said they have also agreed on a new mechanism to fight serious problems such as drug trafficking, narco-terrorism and organised crime.
The US President said: “We discussed and agreed to create a counter-narcotics working group to confront the growing threat of illicit fentanyl and opioid production. We must rid our societies of these lethal, horrible poisons. We will rid our societies of these bad drugs that are pouring in.”
On terrorism, Trump said that in their discussions “Prime Minister Modi and I affirmed our two countries’ commitment to protecting our citizens from radical Islamic terrorism. In this effort, the United States is also working productively with Pakistan to confront terrorists who operate on its soil.”
On energy cooperation, he said, “As India grows, so do its energy needs. Yesterday, ExxonMobil signed a deal to improve India’s natural gas distribution network so that the US can export even more LNG to India.”
Modi said the recently established strategic energy partnership has become stronger and, in this area, mutual investment has grown. The US has become a very important oil and gas source for India. “Over the last four years, our total energy trade volume is about USD 20 billion. Whether it is renewable energy or nuclear energy, indeed our cooperation finds itself instilled with new energy,” he said.
Besides the energy deal, the two sides signed three pacts in the areas of mental health, safety of medical products.
Trump also met Indian CEOs and, before leaving Delhi late night, attended a state banquet hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind.
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