Trump ‘looking forward’ to meeting Modi; H-1B visa, terror, trade on the agenda

13-06-2017
HT

The maiden meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would “set forth a vision” to expand the US-India partnership in an ambitious way, the White House said on Monday.

The leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, home to 1.6 billion people, will meet on June 26 to discuss a gamut of bilateral issues including terrorism and India’s concerns over possible changes in H-1B visa rules.

“I think you can expect the two of them to set forth a vision that will expand the US-India partnership in an ambitious and worthy way of both countries’ people,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily news conference.

The Indian external affairs ministry in New Delhi said that meeting would provide a new direction for a deeper bilateral engagement “on issues of mutual interest and consolidation of multi-dimensional strategic partnership.”

Modi was invited to Washington when he rang Trump in January to congratulate the new president on his inauguration.

“The president and the prime minister have had a number of positive phone conversations, and expect to further that discussion ... whether it’s economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism, expanding our cooperation as major defence partners,” Spicer said in response to a question.

The bilateral talks appear to be no bed of roses as they come amidst thorny issues like US’ plans to reduce the number of H-1B visa slots that are mainly used by Indian IT workers, and its withdrawal from the historic climate accord.

The White House said that the US-India trade has grown six-fold since 2000, from USD 19 billion to USD 115 billion in 2016, despite the recent hiccups over the H-1B visa issue.

Notably, Modi’s US visit, which would begin on June 25, comes in the backdrop of Trump’s announcement to withdraw the US from the historic Paris Climate Agreement signed by over 190 other countries.

In his announcement of the decision for which he received a global condemnation, Trump had blamed India and China for the US withdrawal.

“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions of dollars from developed countries,” he had said.

Strongly rejecting Trump’s contention, India said it signed the Paris deal not under duress or for lure of money but due to its commitment to protect the environment.

Apart from ways to enhance trade and business cooperation, Modi and Trump are expected to discuss defence ties.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis has already made it clear that his country recognises India as a major defence “partner partly out of respect” for New Delhi’s “indispensable role” in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region.

The US was exploring “new ways” to address new challenges as well from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia, Mattis has said.

Regional security situation including Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and other international issues are expected to figure prominently during the meeting of the two leaders.

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