US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sought to strengthen the strategic ties with India during a visit next week despite increasing tensions over trade, data flows and arms from Russia, officials said.
Pompeo will arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday for talks about setting the stage for a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the week at a G20 meeting in Japan.
The India-US relations have been mired in disputes over tariffs, Indian price caps on imported medical devices (coming mostly from the US), and Indian rules on e-commerce that impose conditions over the operations of major US companies such as Amazon and Walmart.
Another issue that has troubled India is the possibility of US restrictions on work visas for Indian professionals in retaliation for India’s insistence on local data storage by big foreign firms, even though the US State Department said on Thursday it had no such plan.
“US-India trade ties, at least between our capitals, are certainly worsening. We both have leaders who look at trade as a zero-sum game,” Richard Rossow, a US-India expert at Washington’s the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters news agency.
The PM Modi-led BJP government, which was re-elected last month with a thumping victory, says it has been trying to resolve disputes with the US but it has to protect the interests of its people, being a developing country.
President Trump has repeatedly targeted India for its high tariffs. Last month Washington further raised the stakes by withdrawing a decades-old Generalised Trade Privilege (GSP) given to India.
Indian and US officials have apprised that trade would be a focus area during Pompeo’s visit to India from 25-27 June, but they have also stressed on the broader political and security relationship to be deliberated.
“There will be certain issues between us that will be on the table at all points of time,” an Indian government official said. “But it should not detract from the overall direction of the relationship, which is positive.”