USA keen to strengthen relationship with India: Mattis
USA keen to strengthen relationship with India: Mattis
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump. Credit Reuters Jonathan Ernst
07 September, 2018, 11:27
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis held long-delayed talks Thursday with top Indian officials, looking to shore up the alliance with one of Washington's top regional partners.
The world's two largest democracies have drawn closer in recent years, seeking ways to counterbalance China's spreading influence across Asia, notably in Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.
In Islamabad, Pompeo and Dunford met Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, India and USA also called on Pakistan to bring to justice expeditiously the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, and other "cross-border terrorist attacks". Washington and New Delhi share concerns over Pakistan-based anti-Western and anti-Indian Islamist militant groups.
The two countries also signed a "Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement", known as COMCASA, that will enable them to exchange sensitive military information quickly and securely.
Washington will consider waivers for Iranian oil buyers such as India but they must eventually halt imports as sanctions are imposed on Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday. "India is going to buy more energy products and aircraft from the United States", he said.
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The ministers committed to enhance their ongoing cooperation in multilateral fora such as the United Nations and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and reaffirmed their support for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism, the joint statement said. That figure now stands to increase, with the new agreement in place.
"India attaches the highest priority to its strategic partnership with the United States".
There are sticking points, however, including the purchase of the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile system, which could trigger USA sanctions on India.
Europe, Russia, and China are now working with Iran to map out a potential course without the US.
However, a new defense bill proposes giving the US president authority to grant waivers when national security interests are at stake. And the S-400 never came up in private discussions with India's defense and external affairs ministers, said Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia Joe Felter.
India however is highly reliant on Iranian crude imports.
In May, Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and said other countries, including India, must stop buying oil from Tehran before November 4 or face USA sanctions. "With India as a major defence partner, we are elevating our defence relationship to be on a par with our closest allies as we deepen the broader US-India relationship, enhancing our interoperability, our defence trade, our technology innovation and industrial collaboration, and bolstering our people-to-people bonds", Mattis said while speaking to the media after the India-US 2+2 Dialogue.
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