Two weeks after US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo said “Modi hai toh mumkin hai”, he will arrive in India on Tuesday and meet his new counterpart External Affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Wednesday amid growing strain in the economic relationship.
Jaishankar, who is perceived to understand the US better than anyone in the government, is expected to convey Delhi’s position on a host of issues, but more than anything else – he is likely to establish a working rapport so that differences can be ironed out between the two countries.
According to sources, the meeting is being looked at as a “getting to know each other” kind of a meeting, as it is their first meeting in Jaishankar’s new role. But, the significance of the meeting is not lost on anyone – it will take place days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of G-20 summit in Osaka on June 28-29.
Sources said that Jaishankar and Pompeo will not be looking at “resolving issues”, but at achieving a common understanding on how to proceed ahead so that they can manage their differences and build on their convergences.
Pompeo is also likely to call on Modi at his residence during his stay here, and the visiting US Secretary of State will also make a policy speech on Wednesday evening. The US Secretary of State was quite candid in his speech in Washington DC on June 12, when he had said that he will discuss the recent decision on the GSP programme.
“I do hope, and remain open – and 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,” he had told the Washington audience.
India this month imposed higher tariffs on 28 US products including almonds, apples and walnuts, following the US withdrawal of trade privileges for India. Last year, India had announced tariffs in retaliation to higher U.S. import duties on steel and aluminium.
Pompeo is also likely to raise the issue of data localisation and e-commerce with Jaishankar. “We’ll also push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies, but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy,” he had said in Washington. And, with a trade war looming with China, in the wake of 5G and Huawei’s entry being barred by the US, he had said, “And speaking of privacy, we are eager to help India establish secure communications networks – including 5G networks as well.”
This will be Pompeo’s first visit after the Modi government was re-elected a month ago, and also days before Modi and US President Donald Trump are likely to meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.
During Pompeo’s conversation with Jaishankar, he had underscored the strong US commitment to working closely with the new Indian government to advance the strategic partnership. “Secretary Pompeo and Minister Jaishankar also discussed shared U.S. and Indian objectives in safeguarding a free and open Indo-Pacific, U.S.-India security cooperation, and the U.S.-India economic partnership,” the US State Department spokesperson had said.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, while announcing the visit last week, “We should look at this relationship from the overall perspective. The overall directions of the relationship remains very positive…the bilateral trade has almost touch $150 billion and there has been a growth every year in the last few years.”
Last year, India and the US held the first 2+2 dialogue, and many of the issues – from defence cooperation to high-technology trade – which were discussed, are likely to be discussed during Jaishankar-Pompeo meeting as well.