Terror, H-1B, Iran oil to top agenda of Jaishankar-Pompeo meet

06/25/2019

New Delhi, June 25: Terrorism, H1-B visas, trade and the situation arising out of US sanctions on buying oil from Iran, will be among a host of issues on the table when Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar holds talks with his American counterpart Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.
 
According to the Indian Media, The US Secretary of State's visit starting Tuesday night is the first high-level visit from any country following the Lok Sabha polls. The two leaders will hold talks on Wednesday—their first meeting after Jaishankar assumed office last month.
 
Pompeo's visit comes ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, which will be held in Osaka, Japan from June 28-29.
 
During his visit, Pompeo will also have a working lunch with Jaishankar and call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
He will meet Indian and US businesses in a round table format and deliver a policy speech at the India International Centre.
 
Jaishankar, while speaking about the visit in Gandhinagar, said India will try to find common ground on trade issues during discussions with Pompeo.
 
"We will be meeting with a positive attitude," he told reporters after filing his nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha poll from Gujarat.
 
"The meeting with Mike Pompeo will be an important one. We will definitely discuss issues related to trade between the two countries," he said.
 
"Both the countries are having their own interests. And it is natural to have some conflicts because of that. We will find a common ground using diplomacy. We will hold discussions with the US with a positive approach," he said.
 
Diplomatic sources said there is no "structured agenda" for the talks between Pompeo and Jaishankar, and the entire spectrum of the relationship will be on the table.
 
They said the talks would be "substantive" but should be seen as a "getting to know each other" meeting, rather than one with concrete deliverables and agreements.
 
Diplomatic sources said combating terrorism, including cross border terrorism, is an "inescapable" topic of discussion in Indo-US talks and will be "very high" on the minds of the two ministers.
 
Another matter that is likely to figure high in the talks is the H-1B issue with an American official saying Pompeo will assure the Indian leadership during his visit to India that the Trump administration has no plans to impose a cap on
issuing the highly sought-after H-1B visas that are forcing foreign companies to store data locally.
 
The H-1B visa, popular among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
 
On the issue of the situation arising out of the ending of exemptions from US sanctions to buy oil from Iran, the diplomatic sources here said a decision will be taken based on India's energy security and commercial considerations.
The engagement with the US will continue on how it can help India get alternative supplies.
 
On tensions running high in the region after Iran shot down a US spy drone last week and Trump considered, then cancelled, a retaliatory strike, a diplomatic source said: "It is a matter of great concern. We will talk to Secretary
Pompeo and Iranians and ask both sides to de-escalate".
 
The source, however, made it clear there was no request made to India from either side to mediate and it would take up the issue due to its concern over the safety of its Diaspora and regional peace. With trade likely to figure in the talks, sources said there has been substantial progress on this front with trade going up by double digits in the last three years and trade deficit going down by double digits under Trump presidency.
 
The source said the issue of high tariffs was "misunderstood" as every country puts tariffs on different items and India's tariff policy was in line with other developing countries.
 
Asked about the industrial security agreement that will allow the transfer of defence technology, the diplomatic source said the Indian side has got the text from the US side subsequent to the last 2+2 meeting.
 
"Our systems are broadly in alignment for us to conclude this industrial security agreement. We need to enure that the processes involved in securing the information at the industrial level followed by the two countries are broadly compatible so that there is no leakage of information," the source said.
 
The negotiations for the agreement are at an advance stage, the source added.
 
Diplomatic sources meanwhile said India met the criteria for a US sanctions waiver for procuring S-400 missile defence systems from Russia and the Trump administration has "enough flexibility" on the issue.
 
The sources also said New Delhi cannot "wish away" its longstanding defence ties with Moscow.
 
The pitch for a waiver came a day before talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo during which the issue is likely to figure.
 
There has been a discussion on the issue with the US, both in private as well as in public domain, and it is of "some concern" to Washington, diplomatic sources said.
 
"We have a longstanding defence relationship with Russia which we cannot wish away," a source said.
India inked an agreement with Russia in October last year to procure a batch of the missile systems at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore. India went ahead to seal the deal notwithstanding the US' warnings against it.
 
The US is well aware of the circumstances that "compelled" India to go for a system like S-400, the sources said.
 
The Indian side has explained the rationale very well to the US side and they appreciate India's requirement, they said.
 
The Indian side feels that it meets the requirements for waiver in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
 
"We meet the CAATSA conditions for waivers from our point of view. We continue to remain engaged," the source said.
 
"The legislation is very clear as to what circumstances a waiver can be given by the administration. So if you look at purely from the legal point of view, our understanding and assessment is that India fulfils those requirements," the source said.
 
"So, the (Trump) administration has enough flexibility to give us the waiver that we look for," the source added.
It will have to be a combination of legal and political stand of the US government, keeping in mind the strategic US-India ties, the sources said.
 
The Indian government had said earlier that it will start receiving the missile systems from Russia from October next year and the deliveries will be completed by April 2023.
 
There were apprehensions about the payment mechanism for the deal in the wake of the US sanctions against Russia. 

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