New Delhi: Two senior US officials will be visiting India this month to take stock of bilateral relations as the two countries seek to iron out differences over trade and prepare for some high-level interactions in the coming months.
Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan and Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells are to be in New Delhi next week on separate visits.
The visits come after a meeting earlier this month between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar on the margins of a Southeast Asian foreign ministers’ meet in Bangkok. That meeting had come after the surprise sprung by US President Donald Trump offering to mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
In his conversation with Pompeo, Jaishankar had clarified that if there was any conversation to take place between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, it would be a bilateral one.
The visits by Sullivan and Wells were mainly in the bilateral context, two officials said separately.
Sullivan’s trip to New Delhi will be preceded by a visit to Bhutan. The 11-17 August trips were aimed at advancing “the United States’ partnership with two nations that are critical to preserving the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region," a State Department statement said. In New Delhi, Sullivan will aim “to advance the broad and multi-faceted U.S.-India strategic partnership, which is based on a shared commitment to democratic values, economic growth, and the rule of law," it said.
During her visit, Wells “will hold bilateral consultations on issues of mutual interest with senior government officials," a separate State Department statement said.
Given that the two officials will be in New Delhi after India on 6 August revoked a provision in its Constitution conferring a special status to Kashmir, “some amount of discussion" could be expected on this, one of the officials cited above said. The official, however, stressed that the two meetings were mainly to review ties and look at further areas of cooperation.
Jaishankar, along with defence minister Rajnath Singh, is expected to visit the US next month for the ‘2+2’ talks--a meeting between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries. The US has meetings in such a format only with select countries and partners like Japan and Australia.
Besides Jaishankar, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal is also expected to visit the US to iron out some wrinkles on the trade front. The expectation is that the two countries would be able to work out an understanding on the subject during the visit. The US is upset with India for capping the prices of medical devices such as stents, for its demand that US companies store data locally as well as over stricter rules governing e-commerce.