New Delhi: India and the United States Wednesday raised the pitch on their growing public bonhomie with New Delhi saying the time had come for the two countries to shape a larger agenda and Washington pitching for a new age of ambition in the bilateral relationship.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called India a key pillar in President Trump’s foreign policy and once again slammed China for the recent border clash with India in Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed last month.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the two countries also need to resolve their trade differences and “move on to something bigger… take the journey to a higher gear”.
Top diplomats of the two countries said India and the US were collaborating on 5G technology, another sensitive issue that is bringing them together in the rivalry against China.
The comments by the top officials of the two countries were made at the US-India Business Council’s virtual India Ideas Summit.
Jaishankar said while India had been engaged with all US governments, including the present Trump administration, to strengthen the bilateral agenda, the time has now come “to shape a larger agenda”.
“My own sense is, having worked with many previous administrations and the current one, actually, intuitively, American administrations have been going down that way, looking really how to engage countries like India more effectively… Perhaps they did so less consciously in the past. We now need to do it more purposefully,” he said.
“I think the US really has to learn to work with a more multipolar world with more plurilateral arrangements, go beyond alliances with which it has grown up over the last two generations,” Jaishankar added.
He said, “Given our history of independence and the fact that we really are coming from different places, there will be issues on which our convergence will be more, somewhere it will be less. I think the quest in the last 20 years, and I see that continuing into the future, is really to find a more common ground.”
Meanwhile, Jaishankar’s US counterpart Pompeo pitched for a “new age of ambition” in the bilateral relationship. “We don’t just interact on a bilateral basis, we see each other for what we are — great democracies, global powers and really good friends.”
Hailing India as one of the few “trusted and like-minded” countries, Pompeo said New Delhi and Washington are collaborating to address the “common challenge” posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“The recent clashes initiated by the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) are just the latest examples of the CCP’s unacceptable behaviour. We are deeply saddened by the deaths of 20 Indian service members,” he said, referring to the 15 June Galwan Valley clash.
India, Pompeo added, remains a key partner of the US in its foreign as well as security policies.
“We have revived the Quad… India is also part of a group of like-minded nations that are convened regularly to advance shared interests,” he said.
Trade talks dominated by ‘complaints’
On the issue of ongoing discussions to have a smaller trade deal between both countries, followed by a free trade agreement (FTA), Jaishankar said discussions in this regard have been mired in a plethora of “complaints”.
He then harked back to his year-long stint at Tata Trusts between 2018 and 2019 to say it was there that he learnt trade is a “bread and butter issue”.
“At the end of the day, even I did not learn it as a diplomat, believe me, I learnt it in the Tatas that these (trade issues) are bread and butter issues,” he said, adding that this is what make countries “work with each other”.
“I think between India and the US, while we work through trade issues, we need to think bigger. In terms of trade, I would say the last few years have been dominated by a conversation about your complaints and our complaints and, depending on where you sit, it looks a little bit different,” he said.
Two-way trade between India and the US on goods and services reached $150 billion in 2019, according to official figures.
Jaishankar said Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have been discussing and negotiating a proposed trade deal even during the pandemic.
‘US and India collaborating on 5G network’
With a global backlash against China’s Huawei, a 5G pioneer, Pompeo said India and the US are now working more closely together on telecommunications.
According to Indian Ambassador to the US Taranjit Sandhu, India and the US are collaborating on 5G while working to smoothen trade and investment issues.
This was reiterated by Kenneth Juster, the US envoy to India, who said New Delhi and Washington can set “global standards” on the 5G network.