At a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, the two leaders also exchanged views on Iran and the tensions in the Gulf region, besides discussing the rollout of fifth generation, or 5G, technology for wireless communications, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters.
The meeting, the first between the two leaders since Modi’s re-election to office, came a day after Trump urged India to reverse the tariffs imposed in retaliation to the US withdrawal of preferential trade terms.
In his opening remarks on Friday, Trump said India-US ties had never been closer, setting the stage for the interaction that was described as open, productive and warm.
There were four issues on the table—Iran, 5G, trade, and defence—Gokhale said.
On Iran, the two sides agreed to remain in touch to ensure the situation in the region remained stable.
Besides issues regarding peace and stability in the Gulf region, Modi outlined India’s energy concerns and said although Iran supplied as much as 11% of India’s energy needs, New Delhi had reduced oil imports from the West Asian country even as it hurt the Indian economy.
Modi told Trump that a large number of Indians live in the region and there were economic interests as well. “Therefore it’s in India’s fundamental interest to have peace and stability in the region," he said.
The Prime Minister also noted that India had despatched two naval ships to the region for the protection of Indian flagged vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz, a point Trump appreciated.
On his part, the President said he hoped oil prices would remain stable and that the US was doing its best to ensure stability was maintained.
On 5G, Modi told Trump that it was a new area in communication that provided opportunity for collaboration between India and the US. “The Prime Minister outlined that we are going to be a billion users of this technology and in that sense India is the second largest market in the world. The way India moves, whatever choices India makes essentially determine the way the global trend will go," Gokhale said, adding that Modi pointed out the need to collaborate “to see how we can leverage this".
“The billion Indian users and India’s capacity in technology development and startups and design and Silicon Valley and its role in development of 5G technology for mutual benefit" were discussed in the meeting, Gokhale said, adding that Modi highlighted the “Make in India" flagship programme in this context.
Trump welcomed the idea and suggested ministerial level talks between the two countries to look at the opportunities that businesses of both sides can leverage and collaborate on.
It was also agreed that the trade ministers of India and US would meet at an early date and sort out the contentious issues relating to market access, trade barriers and trade imbalance.
According to Gokhale, the Prime Minister referred to the withdrawal of special export privileges accorded by the US to India, and the retaliatory step taken by India to impose duties on 28 items imported from the US as “something that had already happened and that we should now look forward and see how we can resolve some of the issues".
“President Trump welcomed this idea…so we expect now an early meeting – the level will be decided late," Gokhale said, adding it was a “very productive discussion" and a “very open discussion" and “we will take this forward".
On Wednesday, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had said in New Delhi that “great friends are bound to have disagreements".
“We’ll keep working to resolve any economic disputes—not only those that we have at this moment, but those that with any significant trading relationship inevitably arise," Pompeo had said after talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar.
India had raised tariffs on 28 items—including almonds, pulses and walnuts—exported from the US in retaliation to Washington’s withdrawal of preferential access for Indian products.
The discussion on defence ties was cut short as both leaders had other engagements, the foreign secretary added.