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U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo’s India visit to pave way for Modi-Trump meet

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit next week would give a boost to the engagement between the political leaderships of India and the U.S., the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday.

During his June 25-27 visit, Mr. Pompeo is expected to deliver a major public lecture, addressing the next generation of Indian youth and discuss tricky issues like H1B visas for IT workers and Indian plans for data localisation.

Officials involved in planning for Mr. Pompeo’s visit said that the Secretary of State and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar would primarily focus on preparations for the Trump-Modi meeting expected on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka on June 28-29.

Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump are also expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for an India-U,S,-Japan trilateral to discuss Indo-Pacific strategy.

Officials said that difficult issues on trade, 5G telecommunications and India’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 anti missile systems would, however, take up a fair amount of time during the discussions.

Apart from U.S. concerns on data localisation and a possible quid pro quo with H1-B visas, Mr. Pompeo is expected to make it clear that if India goes ahead with the S-400 deal, it would be difficult for Washington to offer high technology hardware like F-35 combat aircraft.

“There will be certain issues that will be on the table at all points of time,” said the official spokesperson of the MEA. “Overall direction of the relationship remains very positive,” he added, highlighting the fact that bilateral trade had grown over the years to about $150 billion. The official maintained that the U.S. had not officially informed India about any plans in relation to H1B visas for IT professionals.

The Iran sanctions are expected to be taken up during the Trump-Modi bilateral, and India’s concerns on energy security would be discussed during Mr. Pompeo’s visit, said officials.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Jaishankar would also set the course for future engagements. Both governments are exploring the possibility of another meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi at the UN General Assembly in September this year, and Mr. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will head to Washington for the annual 2+2 summit around the same time. Officials would not confirm whether India had reiterated its invitation to President Trump to attend as Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in 2020, but said they expect a Presidential visit to Delhi at “some point in the next few years”.

Regarding U.S. concerns about Chinese telecom company Huawei’s participation in the 5G roll-out in India, an official said that internal discussions were currently on, focusing on the economic and security aspects. “Such discussions usually do not conclude immediately. Finally we will have to see which of the two components — security and economic — will become the major factor in deciding the case of Huawei,” the official added.

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