New Delhi: India was ready with a “small trade package” for the United States, which New Delhi, however, preferred to wait till a comprehensive bigger trade deal can be signed during the forthcoming visit of US Donald Trump to India, sources said. But New Delhi is moving rapidly on all other fronts including potential defence deals with the US worth billions of dollars.
India has already inked defence deals worth $9 billion with the US alone in the past five and a half years of the Modi government so far, sources said. But in a major development, the two countries are likely to make renewed attempts from next month to negotiate towards signing of the third important bilateral military pact — the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) “to enable greater geospatial information-sharing”. The first military pact that was inked was the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed in 2016, while the second one was the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) inked in 2018.
Sources also pointed out that the United States and India have been on the same page on many issues in the neighbourhood, including relations with Sri Lanka, Maldives and even Nepal. But the issue of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan is expected to be raised by India in a major way.
New Delhi has also noted with satisfaction how the US had backed it in the wake of the Pulwama and Balakot episodes as also the listing of Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar by the United Nations. Another major strategic issue likely to be discussed is the situation in Afghanistan amid concerns in New Delhi that a potential deal between the US and the Taliban should not result in a virtual take-over by Taliban-affiliated terrorists in that country. India has been extremely close to the Afghan Government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
Continued strategic cooperation in the Gulf region will also be another important topic of discussion, given the recent tensions between Iran and the US and also the Indo-Iranian strategic Chabahar project in Iran. Yet another major issue will be the Indo-US strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, given China’s military and economic assertiveness in the region.