Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington on Monday to discuss a whole range of issues, the most crucial of which was trade ties. Pompeo and Jaishankar both agreed that it is important for the larger India-US relationship to have some early results to address concerns on the trade issues between the two countries.
"Both of us felt that while trade issues have progressed, for the larger relationship it was important (that) we see some early results out there," Jaishankar told reporters.
Trade tensions between India and the US have been rising with American President Donald Trump complaining that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were "no longer acceptable". President Trump has in fact called India a “tariff king” and been vocally critical of India for levying "tremendously high" duties on US products.
Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are talking to each other and discussing the details on how to address some of the trade issues between the two countries, Jaishankar said, refraining from sharing details of the trade talks.
Describing his meeting with Pompeo as a "very comfortable one," Jaishankar said that they also discussed various other bilateral issues.
"In a way we were doing stock taking of Prime Minister's meeting with (President) Donald Trump (in New York) last week," he said.
Over the next two days, Jaishankar is scheduled to meet for the first time the new Defense Secretary Mark Esper and also the new National Security Advisor Robert Charles O'Brien to discuss a range of bilateral, regional and global issues.
Jaishankar is also scheduled to meet the Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
On October 2, he will attend an event at the US Library of Congress to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, which would be attended by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and several other lawmakers.
Clarification on Modi’s “Ab ki baar Trump sarkar” comment
Jaishankar emphasised India's non-partisan stand vis-à-vis domestic American politics and clarified that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s use of the phrase ‘Ab ki baar Trump sarkar’ in the Houston rally was merely referring to what the US president had used to endear himself to the Indian-American community during his presidential campaign.
The Indian External Affairs Minister strongly refuted the notion that the prime minister used the phrase to endorse Trump's candidature for his 2020 re-election campaign.
“Please, look very carefully at what the prime minister said. My recollection of what the prime minister said was that candidate Trump had used this (ab ki baar Trump sarkar). So PM is talking about the past.
Jointly addressing a massive rally in Houston with Trump last month, PM Modi had said, “The words of candidate Trump, ab ki baar Trump sarkar, rang loud and clear. And his celebration of Diwali in the White House lit up millions of faces with joy and appreciation.”
Many, including the Congress party in India, accused Modi of endorsing Trump's candidature.
“He (Modi) was pretty clear what he was talking about. He was saying, this is what you said as a candidate, which showed that you were trying to, (connect with India and its people even as a candidate),” Jaishankar said on Monday. “We have a very non-partisan (approach to domestic US politics). So, our sort of approach to whatever happens in this country is their politics, not our politics.”