Pompeo meets Indian leaders amid trade tensions, Iran crisis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar take part in a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2019

Pompeo meets Indian leaders amid trade tensions, Iran crisis

  • US secretary of state describes Tehran as the world’s ‘biggest sponsor of terror’
  • Ties have also been damaged by the US threat of sanctions on India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile

NEW DELHI: In a day-long meeting with the Indian leadership in New Delhi, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday held talks on various issues that had weakened bilateral relations in recent years.

This is Pompeo’s third visit to India, but the first since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in this year’s general elections.

The visit comes as the US and India are enduring a difficult period in their relationship, with both nations engaged in a bitter dispute over trade tariffs.

Relations have been damaged further by the US threat of sanctions on India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile. US sanctions on Iran and creeping instability in the Gulf have added to India’s concerns.

“Our discussion covered trade, energy and defense issues alongside investment concerns,” Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, said in a joint press conference with Pompeo.

“We’re guided by big pictures, and my urging was that we take pragmatic and constructive views on trade-related issues. The real test would be our intention to address that effectively,” Jaishankar added.

“The Indian government is keen to provide a level playing field to American business, to grow with the world economy and provide the right balance,” he said.

“It’s natural for the two countries to have differences over trade, and we’ll mutually try to address them effectively.”

Pompeo said: “We’re friends. We’ll work together. We can try and find a path together.”

New Delhi imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US items earlier this month after the Trump administration ended trade concessions for India on June 1.

On energy issues, Jaishankar said: “We had an open and frank discussion on energy, and we expressed our concerns. I underlined the importance of stability, predictability and affordability in terms of India’s energy imports.”

He told reporters that both countries discussed the situation in the Gulf, and that Pompeo knows India has “big stakes there: Energy, diaspora, business and regional stability.”

On foreign policy issues, Pompeo described Iran as the world’s “biggest sponsor of terror.”

Both leaders refused to answer specific questions on possible exemptions to New Delhi on the purchase of oil from Iran, which is facing US sanctions.

On the question of US opposition to the $5 billion deal for air defense systems between India and Russia, Jaishankar said: “We have relationships with several countries, many of which are significant. They have a history. We’ll do what’s in our national interest.”

He added: “We had a discussion on defense cooperation. It’s important to display trust and confidence in each other if we want this to grow.”

Both countries discussed China’s growing presence in the Indo-Pacific region. “Our partnership in the Indo-Pacific is for a purpose, not against somebody, and that purpose is peace, security, stability, prosperity and rules,” said Jaishankar.

“We’re looking for a landscape where a number of independent players can work together for global good.”

Pompeo said: “The US-India relationship is already reaching a height, particularly in defense cooperation, a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and growing cooperation in energy.”

Before holding talks with Jaishankar, Pompeo met Modi and congratulated him on his electoral victory.

Harsh V. Pant of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation told Arab News: “Pomeo’s visit is very significant and sets the tone for the future US-India relationship. It comes at a time when the relationship is passing through some difficulty.”

Pant said: “One visit can’t solve the trade problem. It’s a structural problem in many ways. Trade has always been a frustrating issue for the relationship, but it’s a very small part in the larger strategic ties between the two nations.”

He added: “The convergence between US and India is based on the larger structural reality of the regional and global balance of power. So long as both countries are mindful of that, I think the relationship can grow.”

Pant said: “Where India will have to rethink is on the issue of transnationalism. It isn’t enough for India to say its rise is good for America therefore America should help India. The US is changing, and you’ll have to respond to the changing America.”


Kashmir shutdown caused losses of more than $1 bln, trade body says

Updated 19 November 2019

Kashmir shutdown caused losses of more than $1 bln, trade body says

  • Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said that it is planning to sue the government for damages
  • India's home ministry and local government officials did not comment on the losses report

SRINAGAR: Economic losses in Kashmir have run well over a billion dollars since India revoked its autonomy and statehood in August, the main trade body in the Himalayan region said, adding that it planned to sue the government for damages.
India turned its erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into a federally-controlled territory, tightening control in a shock move it said would rein in militancy in the region also claimed by neighboring Pakistan, and promote its development.
But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said development was elusive, thanks to a protracted shutdown after people closed markets and businesses as a mark of protest, and for fear of reprisals from insurgents.
It estimated economic losses ran into least 100 billion rupees ($1.40 billion) by September, but now exceeded that, said Nasir Khan, its senior vice president.
“We’ll ask the court to appoint an external agency to assess the losses, because it is beyond us,” said Khan, adding that India’s telecoms blackout in the region meant the body could not reach business owners by telephone to prepare estimates.
Instead, it had to send staff to meet them and gather details.
India’s home ministry and local government officials did not respond to detailed requests for comment.
Besides severing telecoms links ahead of its decision, India imposed curbs on travel and sent thousands of troops to the heavily-militarised region, citing security concerns.
Some curbs have since been eased, but access to the Internet remains largely blocked.
India and Pakistan have tussled over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947, with each claiming the region in full but ruling it only in part.
For decades, India has battled insurgency in the portion it controls. It blames Pakistan for fueling the strife, but Pakistan denies this, saying it gives only moral support to non-violent separatists.
The clampdown has hit tourism as well as farming, horticulture and the arts and crafts that contribute the most to its export-oriented economy.
“I don’t see any stability for many months here,” said Vivek Wazir, who runs a hotel in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar. “There’s too much uncertainty.”
Although a few years ago he planned to expand his business in Kashmir, Wazir said the hotel was now barely breaking even, and he was instead considering opening one in the neighboring Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
India canceled an investor summit it had planned in Kashmir in October, and most tourists have stayed away after a spate of attacks on non-locals in recent weeks, which police blame on militants backed by Pakistan.
“I’d be surprised if any genuine investors came,” said Khan, adding that KCCI had received no inquiries from potential investors since August