New Delhi: India and the US Tuesday announced a step-up in bilateral ties, saying the relationship was now a ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’ even as they vowed to sign a “bigger” trade deal.
The announcement was made during PM Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump’s joint media address following talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. Trump, who is on his maiden visit to India, leaves for the US this evening.
“Today, we have decided to take our relationship to a much higher level, so we are announcing the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership,” said Modi. “This is the century’s most important relationship… The US-India relationship is not just between two governments, it is people-driven and people-centric.”
Both sides, he added, had vowed to strengthen ties in the areas of trade, defence and security, counter-terrorism, energy and technology, among others.
During Trump’s two-day trip, India and the US have signed defence deals worth $3 billion.
The countries have also signed three pacts dealing with mental health, special medical products and LNG (liquefied natural gas) imports, for which state-owned IOC has tied up with US energy giant Exxon Mobil.
India’s energy imports from the US have reached $20 billion, Modi said, describing Washington as an important partner when it comes to sourcing of energy.
‘Expanded defence cooperation’
According to the PM, defence cooperation between India and the US had proved extremely beneficial for the country’s national security.
“Whether it is energy, civil aircraft, defence, or a higher education, over the last four or five years, just these four sectors have contributed $70 billion to the relationship between India and the US,” Modi said, also lauding the rising number of joint armed forces exercises between the countries.
“A lot of this is due to the policies and the willingness of President Trump, and I’m fully confident that, in the years to come, this will further grow.”
On his part, Trump said US exports to India had increased by 60 per cent, and energy exports by 500 per cent, since he came to power.
He also hailed the “expanded defence cooperation” between the two countries.
“Earlier today, we expanded our defence cooperation with agreements for India to purchase more than $3 billion of advanced American military equipment, including Apache and MH-60 Romeo helicopters — the finest in the world,” Trump said.
“These deals will enhance our joint defence capabilities as our militaries continue to train and operate side-by-side.”
Both will have a ‘bigger trade deal’
The two leaders also touched upon the prickly trade relationship, where differences over multiple issues have kept the countries from concluding a much-awaited trade deal.
Prime Minister Modi said the US and India now planned to sign a “bigger trade deal”. He claimed Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had established an understanding on the countries’ trade equation.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was part of the President’s delegation, also held talks with Goyal as the two sides continue to thrash out a trade deal.
“As far as bilateral trade is concerned, our commerce ministers have had very positive discussions. President Trump and I, we have both agreed that the understanding reached by our commerce ministers will take it forward to give it a legal shape,” Modi said. “We have also agreed to initiate negotiations for a bigger deal. We are confident that this will yield good results that will be in our mutual interest.”
Strategic concerns took primacy during the dialogue too, with Modi and Trump agreeing to enhance cooperation on the Indo-Pacific region while emphasising the importance of a rules-based global order.
5G and terrorism among other concerns discussed
Among other things, Modi sought to push the US to conclude a ‘totalisation agreement’.
The agreement, which has been pending for more than two decades now, seeks to address concerns associated with the social security deposit made by Indian temporary workers in the US. In the absence of a pact, the workers are forced to lose all their savings when they come back to India.
Trump also nudged India to take an informed decision on 5G, an area where the US has been trying to discourage nations from choosing Chinese pioneer Huawei over alleged spying concerns.
“During our visit, we discussed the importance of a secure 5G wireless network and the need for this emerging technology to be a tool for freedom, progress, prosperity, not to do anything with where it could be even conceived as a conduit for suppression and censorship,” Trump said.
His speech also invoked his concerns about Islamic terrorism, a subject he had also talked about at Ahmedabad.
“In our discussions, Prime Minister Modi and I affirmed our two countries’ commitment to protecting our citizens from radical Islamic terrorism. In this effort, the United States is also working productively with Pakistan to confront terrorists who operate on its soil.”
Both sides also decided to increase their cooperation in the areas of drug trafficking.