Foreign Secretary Gokhale discusses terror, trade and strategic partnership with Pompeo and other U.S. Officials

Washington,  March 12:

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale arrived in Washington DC on Sunday for discussions with his U.S. State Department Counterparts and others in the administration and the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Gokhale’s trip was pre-scheduled and part of the Foreign Office Consultation and Strategic Security Dialogue and is not specifically linked to the Pulwama attack and its fallout, an Indian Embassy official in Washington told The Hindu.

“These are regular high-level dialogue mechanisms to review bilateral relations, exchange views on major foreign policy and security-related developments and coordinate respective positions on issues of common interest.”

In addition to meetings scheduled with his counterparts, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson, Mr. Gokhale met with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Monday morning. Mr. Hale was also present at the meeting as per the State Department schedule released to the media.

Mr. Gokhale’s and Mr. Pompeo’s discussions included the India-US 2+2 Dialogue, the Pulwama situation, Afghanistan, cooperating in the Indo-Pacific region and trade, a statement from the Indian Embassy here said.

“[The] Foreign Secretary conveyed appreciation to the US Government and to Secretary Pompeo personally for the firm support that India received from the US in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Pulwama, in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. He apprised Secretary Pompeo about recent developments in this regard,” the statement said.

The visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan and as the listing of Masood Azhar, leader of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), is underway at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Committee. JeM had claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 40 CRPF jawans in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, on February 14.

The listing process, initiated by France, the U.K. and the U.S., is slated to conclude at 3 p.m. on Wednesday and would result in sanctions on Azhar, including an arms and travel ban and an asset freeze, but whether it goes through remains to be seen. China’s comments on Monday indicate that Beijing may stand in the way of the process as it has done the last three times a listing of Azhar was underway.

“China’s position on the designation of a terrorist by the 1267 Sanctions Committee is consistent and clear. China adopted a responsible attitude, follows the rules of the procedure of the committee and participated in the discussions in a responsible manner. Only through discussions can we come up with a responsible solution,” the media had reported Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang as saying.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Gokhale discussed cross-border terrorism and support for terror groups on Monday, according to the Indian Embassy statement.

“Secretary Pompeo expressed his understanding of India’s concerns regarding cross -border terrorism. They agreed that Pakistan needs to take concerted action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and to deny safe haven to all terrorist groups in its territory. They also agreed that those who support or abet terrorism in any form should be held accountable,”

Mr. Gokhale’s visit also comes at a time when trade talks between India and the U.S. are floundering. U.S. President Donald Trump’s stated intent last week to withdraw preferential trade terms for India under the GSP program and a renewal of India’s exemption from U.S. sanctions for purchasing Iranian oil are expected to be discussed during Mr Gokhale’s visit.

“In response to Secretary Pompeo’s reference to bilateral trade matters, Foreign Secretary underscored the significant reduction in trade deficit in the last three years and conveyed India’s willingness to remain engaged with the U.S. for a meaningful and mutually acceptable package on trade issues,” the statement read.

To a U.S. administration and President who view trade imbalances as proxies for the “unfairness” of a trade-relationship and are keen on increasing fossil fuel use, India has repeatedly pointed to the reduction in the bilateral trade deficit (India has a trade surplus of just over $ 20 bn with the U.S.) and its growing U.S. oil purchases from the U.S.

Mr. Gokhale’s visit will conclude on Wednesday.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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