Washington/New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale will call on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and meet other senior officials of the Trump administration here on Monday and exchange views on major foreign policy and security-related issues, officials said, amidst tensions between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack.
Gokhale arrived in the US on Sunday for the bilateral Foreign Office Consultation and Strategic Security Dialogue with his American counterparts, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson.
While his 3-day US trip was scheduled much before the February 14 Pulwama terrorist attack, Gokhale's meetings with Pompeo and his counterparts here this week are considered significant in view of the escalated tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of India's preemptive air strike on the largest terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Balakot in Pakistan and the subsequent developments.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber of the Pakistan-based JeM terror group killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district. India has provided a dossier to Pakistan, detailing the role of JeM in the Pulwama terror attack.
India has also said that Pakistan has failed to take any credible action against JeM and other terrorist organizations, which continue to operate with impunity from Pakistan. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino, during his bi-weekly news conference last Tuesday, said Secretary of State Pompeo played an "essential role" in de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.
"Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides," he had said. According to Pompeo's schedule for Monday released to the media, the State Department said the meeting between the US Secretary of State and Gokhale is scheduled on Monday morning.
"Secretary Pompeo meets with Indian Foreign Secretary Shri Vijay Gokhale at the Department of State," the State Department said. Protocol-wise, it is quite unusual for Pompeo to meet Gokhale, but over the last few years, the US Secretary of State has met the Foreign Secretary, including his predecessor S Jaishankar.
The foreign office consultation and strategic security dialogue with the US are regular high-level dialogue mechanisms to review bilateral relations, exchange views on major foreign policy and security-related developments and coordinate respective positions on issues of common interest, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Gokhale's visit comes as India intensifies its efforts to declare Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council. Last month, the US, the UK and France made a fresh bid at the UN to ban Azhar. JeM is already a UN-designated terrorist organisation.
During his visit, the Foreign Secretary is also likely to meet with senior leaders in the US administration and the US Congress.