India will make it clear to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that there was no question of going back on the S-400 missile defence accord with Russia since negotiations over the mega-deal predated Washington’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific, Iran and trade and defence issues will be high on the agenda during the talks between Pompeo and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday. The visiting leader will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pompeo is arriving here on Tuesday night for the first high-level engagement between the two countries since the Modi government assumed office for the second time after the recent Lok Sabha elections. The visit is taking place at a time when the two countries are involved in a bitter war over trade-related issues.
The two sides are also expected to do the groundwork for talks between Modi and US President Donald Trump in Osaka (Japan) on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit.
Ahead of Pompeo’s visit, highly-placed sources in New Delhi said India could not wish away its defence partnership with Russia. They emphasised that Washington must keep the $5 billion S-400 deal with Russia out of the purview of CAATSA keeping in view India’s security needs.
Jaishankar was expected to point out to Pompeo that the US administration has enough scope for flexibility to grant a waiver to India on the purchase of S-400 defence systems. Jaishankar would also draw the American leader’s attention to the growing defence ties between India and the US.
The statement assumes significance against the backdrop of a US State Department official recently saying Washington would urge all its allies and partners, India included, to forego transactions with Russia that risk triggering the CAATSA sanctions.
Sources also said India was deeply concerned over the evolving situation in West Asia in the wake of tensions between the US and Iran, primarily because of its energy needs and the presence of a huge Indian diaspora in the region. New Delhi would urge both the US and Iran to de-escalate and restore normalcy in the region, they added.
Sources said Pompeo’s visit was expected to give a ‘jump start’ to trade-related issues and resolve long-standing differences and irritants in the bilateral relationship.
On indications that the US administration could place a cap on H-1B visa which could affect Indian techies, sources said India has not heard anything official on this count from Washington.
Meanwhile, Jaishankar told media in Gandhinagar that there would be talks on trade issues between him and Pompeo. ”We have our own interests and the US has its own…sometimes they converge and sometimes they don’t. Diplomacy is about finding a common ground on these interests,” he was quoted as saying.