PM Modi raises Pak terror and trade issues with US

The Asian Age.  | Sridhar Kumaraswami

India, All India

The two also discussed enhancement in defence ties with India having acquired billions of dollars of US defence platforms and weaponry.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with US vice-president Mike Pence during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Singapore. (Photo: AFP)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US vice-president Mike Pence in Singapore on Wednesday, with Mr Modi saying there was only one source of global terror attacks — Pakistan, while expressing concern over the “mainstreaming” of terrorists in the Pakistani electoral process. On trade — on which the Trump administration has adopted a strident position globally — Mr Modi reminded the US vice-president that American exports to India had risen by 50 per cent in the past two years, with India importing $4 billion of US oil and gas this year.

Giving details of the meeting, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters that Mr Modi also hoped the US would take into account the rich contribution of Indian-Americans in every sphere while deciding on the H-1B visa issue. The India-US strategic partnership and a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region was also discussed between the two leaders, something that is seen by observers in the context of increased Chinese military assertiveness. The two also discussed enhancement in defence ties with India having acquired billions of dollars of US defence platforms and weaponry. But significantly, Mr Modi pitched for US cooperation in making India a hub for making defence equipment.

A statement by the US reflected American priorities on issues related Indo-US strategic ties and the focus on the Indo-Pacific, “fair and reciprocal trade with India”, as well as counter-terrorism efforts. The US statement said: “Vice-President Mike Pence met today with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India ahead of the East Asia Summit in Singapore. The two leaders reiterated the importance of the US-India strategic partnership and of advancing our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The Vice-President and Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed the commitments of the two nations to strengthen security and counter-terrorism cooperation and coordination. Vice-President Pence also encouraged free, fair, and reciprocal trade with India.”

Speaking to reporters in Singapore, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale termed the meeting between Mr Modi and Mr Pence as being “very good” with “positive energy”. Mr Modi also invited Mr Pence to visit India, to which Mr Pence indicated he would visit sometime next year. He said the US vice-president had spoken about the coming 10th anniversary of the horrific 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and had appreciated the cooperation with India in counter-terrorism. Mr Modi told Mr Pence that “in one way or the other all traces and leads in global terror attacks ultimately lead to a single source and place of origin”. Mr Modi also told Mr Pence that “mainstreaming of people involved in the Mumbai attacks in the political process in recent elections in Pakistan should be a matter of serious concern” to all. This was of course a clear reference to Pakistani efforts to mainstream terrorist and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

Mr Gokhale said on trade, in the last two years (during the Trump presidency) Mr Modi told Mr Pence that US exports to India had grown by 50 percent, while the trade deficit with the US had reduced last year (in favour of the US), and there was going to be a further reduction this year.

The two leaders also discussed enhancement in defence ties, with Mr Modi pitching for American cooperation in making defence equipment in India so that India can become a hub for exports. Mr Modi hoped the Trump administration would recognise this as a “new opportunity”.

Mr Modi also appreciated President Donald Trump for hosting a Diwali event in the US. Mr Modi noted the contribution of Indian-Americans economically and culturally and said Indians bring talent to the US to excel and innovate and are imbued in democratic values, thereby making a socio-political contribution there. Mr Modi hoped the US takes this into account when it looks at the H-1B visa issue. Incidentally, on the visa front, India is already in touch with the US administration to “save” both the H-1B and H-4 visas. The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. The H-4  visa relates to work permits for spouses of H-1B visa holders. Both visas are of significance to Indian professionals and their spouses living in America.