New Delhi: US President Donald Trump will raise issues concerning the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two-day visit next week, a senior US official has said.
The US President will bring up concerns over “religious freedom” both in his private as well as in public remarks, the Trump administration official said at a media briefing in Washington late Friday.
Asked if Trump will bring up CAA and NRC, the official said, “We are concerned with some of the issues (CAA and NRC)… I think President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private.
“He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration.”
The statement came amid concerns in the US over widespread protests in India against the CAA and the proposed NRC.
The US president will also urge the PM to have a dialogue with Pakistan, according to the official.
Trump will be arriving in India for a hurricane tour starting Monday. He will be visiting Ahmedabad and Agra before flying out from New Delhi Tuesday.
‘Religious liberty and equal treatment’
In remarks about the contentious issue of religious freedom, the US official brought up Modi’s speech in the Parliament last year after winning the Lok Sabha elections.
“Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritise being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law,” said the official.
With growing concerns in the US over some of these issues, the official said the Trump administration will highlight the fact that the Indian Constitution upholds the values of religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions in India.
Asked about the common vision between India and the US for Indo-Pacific, the official said the thread that binds the two countries together is “our shared democratic systems that place a premium on citizen-centric governments”.
Push for dialogue between India & Pakistan
US President Donald Trump will also seek “a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences”, said the official.
“We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that,” the official said.
The official added that the US hopes India and others in the subcontinent will continue to support the peace deal that it is believed to have clinched with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
On Friday, the US State Department announced the so-called peace deal with the Taliban, finalising it to be signed on 29 February.
“We certainly would look to India to support this peace process — an important country in the region, important to the overall stability of the region. So I think if the issue comes up, that is what would be the request from the President.”
On the issue of trade talks collapsing between India and the US, the Trump administration official said it is “the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors”.
This was one of the reasons why the US revoked trade benefits given to India under the Generalized System of Preferences programme, said the official.
“We continue to talk to our Indian colleagues about addressing these market access barriers. Our trade teams led by USTR have been in touch with their counterparts over the past several weeks. That engagement will continue,” the official said.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is not part of the delegation that is accompanying President Donald Trump on his visit. Lighthizer was expected to visit India earlier this month to finalise the proposed limited trade deal.
On Thursday, Trump said the US will have a “tremendous deal” with India, likely after the US presidential elections slated for later this year.