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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is on a three-day visit to India, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi today (Wednesday, June 26) and had talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the national capital.

On the table for discussions are a host of issues, including some prickly ones, bilateral and otherwise – such as trade, H1B visas, India’s S-400 missile system deal with Russia, US sanctions on buying oil from Iran – ahead of PM Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka later this month.Pompeo also met National Security Advisor AjitDoval.

Pompeo’s visit is the first high-level visit from any country after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stunning victory in the national election. It marks the third visit to India by a Secretary of State during the Trump administration.

Pompeo, who arrived yesterday night, held detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the afternoon and had a working lunch with him.

“Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership. Secretary Pompeo called on PM Narendra Modi to exchange views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship. PM will meet President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 Osaka Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted along with pictures of the meeting.

Ahead of the strategically-important India-US talks, India indicated it would stay firm on the S-400 deal with Russia and seek waiver under the US law as India’s ties with Russia could not simply be ‘wished away’. Reports quoting sources said despite the threat of US sanctions, New Delhi will point out that the US has a law that offers a way out. India’s stance will be made clear to Pompeo during his visit.

The US also stated its position on what it wants from India. Hours after Pompeo landed in New Delhi last night, the US said it wants PM Modi to lower trade barriers and embrace fair and reciprocal trade. “There is enormous potential to grow our trade relationship and create the high-quality jobs that Prime Minister Modi wants if India lowers trade barriers and embraces fair and reciprocal trade,” a US State Department factsheet said.

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S Jaishankar, ahead of his working lunch with Pompeo, said India will try to find common ground on trade issues during their discussions. “We will be meeting with a positive attitude…The meeting with Mike Pompeo will be an important one. We will definitely discuss issues related to trade between the two countries,” he said.

Jaishankar said, “it is natural to have some conflicts” since both the countries have their own interests. “We will find a common ground using diplomacy,” he added.

There is no structured agenda for the discussions between Jaishankar and Pompeo, said reports.

Mike Pompeo will also interact with Indian and US businesses at a round table meet and deliver a policy speech at the India International Centre in Delhi this evening.

After his India visit, Pompeo will fly to Japan to attend the G-20 summit with Donald Trump. PM Modi would also be attending the summit of leaders from top 20 economies of the world. The two leaders are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the summit.

The US State Department on Pompeo’s visit:

Ahead of the talks, after Pompeo arrived in New Delhi last night, the US State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to India is aimed at deepening the strategic relationship with the largest democratic country of the world.

It said that the United States and India are natural strategic partners and President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are firmly committed to accelerating the upward trajectory of this partnership.

“Prime Minister Modi’s sweeping mandate in the recent elections creates a unique opportunity to realize this vision,” it said.

The United States and India are moving quickly to achieve their shared vision for a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region by expanding cooperation in areas such as energy, aviation, and space, it added.

“We have elevated the level of strategic interaction between our two countries, most notably through the annual 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue that pairs the Secretaries of State and Defense with their Indian counterparts,” the State Department said.

The first 2+2 was held in September 2018 and culminated in the announcement of a new tri-service exercise and the signing of a secure communications agreement that will enable India to operationalise its status as a Major Defense Partner. The next 2+2 is likely to be held in Washington later this year.

The United States granted India Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status last year, allowing India to enjoy the same license-free access to certain defense articles as NATO allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

This status also creates greater supply chain efficiency and supports US industry and investment, it said.

“The reinvigorated quadrilateral dialogue between the United States, India, Japan, and Australia has met four times since President Trump took office to discuss ways to strengthen a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific in which all nations are sovereign, strong, and prosperous,” the State Department said.

Asserting that the support for US-India ties transcends political parties and presidential administrations, the State Department said as the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the United States and India share deep respect for one another’s values and traditions.

“Our people and cultures are profoundly intertwined,” it said.

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“The Indian diaspora in the United States is nearly 4 million strong. Indian-Americans are thriving in the United States and helping to make our communities more secure and prosperous through their leadership in industry, academia, and government,” the State Department said.

Indian students enrich US campuses, contribute to its economy, and build lifelong bonds with Americans. The number of Indian students studying in the United States has increased for the fifth year in a row, more than doubling from 96,000 students in the 2012-13 academic year to 1,96,000 in 2018.

“In 2018, Indians received 70 percent of H-1B visas issued worldwide. The program allows talented Indian professionals to participate in the US economy and return to their country with new skills to contribute to India”s economic growth, to our mutual benefit,” the State Department said.

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