New Delhi: US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman is set to have a packed agenda during her maiden visit to India next week, which will pave the way for the India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) and the maiden 2+2 ministerial dialogue under the Joe Biden administration.
Secretary Sherman is visiting India from 6 to 7 October and will be reaching New Delhi from Tashkent. She will be meeting government officials, representatives from civil societies and will also visit Mumbai on 7 October to meet the business community.
Sherman is expected to set the tone for the upcoming 2+2 talks between the foreign and defence ministers of both countries, which is likely to take place in November, sources told ThePrint.
They further noted that her visit is also likely to set the ball rolling for the India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF).
The India-US TPF was established in 2005 with the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in India as nodal agencies.
Under the previous US administration, headed by President Donald Trump, the TPF met only once in October 2017 when then US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met India’s former commerce minister Suresh Prabhu.
However, after this meeting, President Trump called off the talks and began negotiations for a limited trade deal between India and the US as an answer to a plethora of trade issues between both the countries.
These issues range from lowering of tariffs for American goods, especially agricultural produce, to increase in tariffs on IT products by India.
However, despite a series of negotiations between both sides, the plan to have a small trade deal, followed by a larger one, could not be clinched.
Talks on trade to start afresh
According to the sources quoted above, the Biden administration is not yet keen to have a trade deal with India since it plans to smoothen out “trade irritants” first, under the TPF.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US last week, India made sure to put trade back on the table as the government eyes large trade deals in its second term, unlike the first one.
“Between India and the United States, trade will continue to assume importance, and we find that the trade between our two countries is actually complementary,” Modi said in Washington last week, addressing a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden.
The issue of enhancing two-way trade also came up during the meetings Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla had with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sherman, last week.
Afghanistan to be focus of 2+2 talks
The 2+2 dialogue between the US and India will take place in Washington this time, for which External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will visit the US.
This is going to be the first 2+2 level talks between both sides under the Biden administration.
According to sources, during this meet, both sides will discuss the roadmap for Afghanistan that is now being ruled by the Taliban.
They added that the discussions will range from extending humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, support for Afghan women and children and also on the remainder of the evacuation exercise in the country.
Discussions will also be held on the role both countries will be playing in Afghanistan, in terms of whether or not to grant international legitimacy to the Taliban while making them adhere to the UN Resolution 2593 (2021), which was passed under India’s UNSC presidency in August.
The resolution demanded that the territory of Afghanistan not be used for terrorist activities or as a safe haven particularly for groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
(Edited by Rachel John)