Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeks to alleviate frictions that have cropped up in U.S.-India relations

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo engages in a fireside chat with Meg Gentle at the "India Ideas Summit," held on June 12 in conjunction with the 44th annual meeting of the U.S.-India Business Council in Washington, D.C. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, obviously in an effort to alleviate the recent frictions between Washington and New Delhi, has declared that the Trump administration is all in with regard to the U.S.-India strategic relationship, but hopes “our Indian friends will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their exporters and private-sector companies.”

Delivering the keynote address on the first day of the two-day ‘India Ideas Summit’ held in conjunction with the 44th annual meeting of the U.S.-India Business Council June 12-13, Pompeo, who will travel to India, Sri Lanka, Japan and South Korea from June 24 to 30, said, “I truly believe that our two nations have an incredibly unique opportunity to move forward together, for the good of both of our peoples, the Indo-Pacific region, and indeed the entire world.”

Acknowledging the transformational visit to India in March 2000 by President Bill Clinton and the continuing efforts by presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in carrying the ball in furthering the U.S.-India partnership, the Trump administration’s top diplomat said, “U.S. presidents of both parties have seized the opportunity to seize closer ties.”

“President Clinton’s visit in 2000 set a real marker, he set the table for closer cooperation between the two countries, and then President Bush inked a historic civil nuclear deal.More recently, President Obama granted India ‘Major Defense Partner’ status, and supported India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – a position that the United States continues to support.”

And under President Trump, Pompeo said, “we’ve taken our defense cooperation to new heights, solidified our common vision for the Indo-Pacific, and taken a far tougher stand on Pakistan’s unacceptable support for terrorism in the region.”

He recalled, “When Prime Minister Modi visited the White House back in 2017, he and President Trump exchanged a lot of good will and a couple of hugs,” and added that he couldn’t agree more with Modi’s remarks that “India’s interests lie in a strong, and prosperous, and successful America, and in the same way [that] India’s development and its growing role at the international level are in the United States of America’s interest as well.”

“We’ve come a long way. And now the Trump administration and the Modi administrations have an incredibly unique opportunity to take advantage of this special partnership. We can move further,” he said.

Pompeo was quick to note the role of the Indian American community and its contributions, pointing out that “Indian-Americans too have contributed mightily to things that happened here in the United States. We’ve watched Indians reach the heights of industry, and academia, and government. People like Microsoft’s CEO(Satya Nadella), and the FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a great Kansan, have done remarkable things all around the world.”

The Secretary, who will meet with Modi and the newly minted Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, exhorted that “we must embrace that strategic framework that works for both of our nations. We respect India as a truly sovereign, important country, with its own unique politics and its own unique strategic challenges.”

“We get it. We realize it’s different to deal with the likes of China and Pakistan from across the ocean than it is when they are on your borders.That’s why in this room, not so many months ago, I elaborated on President Trump’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. It starts from the premise that we share a common set of values  the values of democracy and freedom and a core belief in the ingenuity of the human spirit,” he said.

Pompeo said that the Trump Administration has already enabled American companies to export more high technology items to India, including cutting-edge defense platforms like armed UAVs and ballistic missile defense systems. "We've already launched the Asia-EDGE program, to help India raise private capital to meet its energy security and access needs.”

"These are solid achievements, but we want to do much more. We clearly have overlapping interests in defense, energy, and space," he said, and pointed out that the first batch of India's Apache helicopters are coming off Boeing's production line in Arizona.

Pompeo noted that “Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and Boeing's F/A-18 are state-of-the-art fighters that could give India the capabilities it needs to become a full-fledged security provider in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.”

"On energy, we want to complete the Westinghouse civil nuclear project, and deliver more American LNG and crude," he added and predicted that these steps will give Indians “reliable and abundant energy and help reduce dependence on regimes like Iran and Venezuela.”

Pompeo also noted that “on space, NASA is already working with the Indian Space Research Organization on the world's most advanced earth-observation satellite and India's second lunar mission.”

Then giving a sneak preview of his pending trip to New Delhi, he acknowledged, “Now, I’m sure we’ll broach some tough topics too. But as we democracies have come to know, that we work out our disagreements. We bring them to the table honestly and fairly. And we’ll probably discuss the recent decision on the GSP program.”

“I do hope, and remain open – and we remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people, and private sector companies.”

Pompeo said, “We’ll also push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies, but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy.And speaking of privacy, we are eager to help India establish secure communications networks – including 5G networks as well.”

He ended his remarks, saying that “as Prime Minister Modi said in his latest campaign – he said, ‘Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai,’‘Modi makes it possible.’ I’m looking forward to exploring what’s possible between our two peoples.”

In the interaction that followed with Meg Gentle, president and CEO of Tellurian, Inc., who had introduced him and then engaged in a Fireside Chat, Pompeo argued, “We have to be candid, we have to be straight, where we have disagreements we have to own them, work through them, find compromises that deliver good outcomes for every nation in the region, and then collectively – collectively begin to work in a way that will deliver growth throughout the world and for these countries throughout the Indo-Pacific for the next five, 10, 25 years.”

When Gentle questioned him on the economic priorities on tap, particularly since he had gone through a laundry list of the many industries where there is significant economic cooperation between the U.S. and India, Pompeo reminisced, “I did business in India when I – before I lost my mind and ran for Congress, I ran a small business that made machine parts for the aerospace industry. And I spent a fair amount of time in Bangalore and in Chennai working with HAL – with Hindustan Aviation Limited – to sell products we – a small joint venture. I’ll tell you what. It was tough. India was still opening up, it was still figuring its way through, but there was a real value proposition there, and we did well.”

Pompeo asserted that “what businesses need when they go to invest in each other’s countries, they need stability, they need a set of rules that they can understand, they need to make sure that the efforts that we put forward together from the United States have sufficient bipartisanship, that they won’t be whipsawed, as we have elections here. That is, when you invest, your ROI (return on investment) often extends beyond any particular congress or any particular administration.”

“If we can do those things – and I talked about some of the fields--andit’s already happening in technology and engineers. I know all of the amazing, brilliant Indian students that come to study in our schools at Wichita State University in my hometown, lots of amazing people doing amazing things want to come work in places where they can go make money and be successful. They don’t care so much if it’s with an Indian company or an American company. They want to go out and use their skillset.”

Pompeo said, “If we can, at the State Department, lay the foundation for that, then I’m confident the folks in this room will knock it out of the park. They’ll take risk, they’ll invest capital, they’ll invest capital here and in India, and we’ll grow both sides of the relationship.”

But differences remain in some of the key trade and business issues, he acknowledged. "But we remain open to dialogue and hope our Indian friends will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their exporters and private-sector companies," he said.

Pompeo said the U..S will also push for the free flow of data across borders - not just to help American companies - but to protect data and ensure consumer privacy.

The US is eager to help India establish secure communications networks - including 5G networks, he said.

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