US ties with India, Pak cannot be equated, says White House

24 June 2017

Just ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US, the White House on Friday asserted that US ties with India and Pakistan were not a ''zero-sum game'', and the Trump administration's priorities and the nature of relationship with the two countries were different.

"We seek to have an effective partnership with each country. With India, we're building that strategic partnership. We see India's role and influence growing. We like to encourage that trend. So, we're looking for ways to cooperate on our mutual interests," a senior administration official told reporters at a news conference in Washington.

"With Pakistan, we seek to have a productive partnership working together. But frankly, the priorities are different, and the nature of the relationships is different. So I think that we would like to move forward with both countries.''

The two leaders will discuss the deepening of defence and security ties, launch new initiatives on counter-terrorism and thrash out trade issues of mutual concern.

They are also expected to discuss climate change, an uncomfortable issue after Trump took a shot at India and China in remarks announcing US exit from the Paris Accord, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region in the context of the South China Sea dispute.

There were no plans for discussing the issue of H-1B visas, the senior White House official previewing the visit for reporters said, adding ''if it's raised'', the US will note that while Trump has ordered a review, ''there have been no immediate changes in visa applications and issuance procedures''.

He said the US would like to see the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan.

"We believe it's in both countries' interests. It's in the interests of the region, and even the globe, given that they're both nuclear-weapon powers," the official said.

The US is interested in providing India with the kind of defence technology it normally reserves for its closest allies, the White House said, signalling the Trump administration's resolve to strengthen the bilateral defence relationship.

Red carpet
The White House is rolling out the red carpet for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his first meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday. The two leaders will discuss deepening of defence and security ties, launch new initiatives on counter-terrorism and thrash out trade issues of mutual concern.

At the end of hours of one-on-one and delegation-level bilateral meetings attended by members of Trump's cabinet, the two sides will break for a cocktail reception and then proceed to a working dinner, which will be a milestone: Modi will be the first foreign dignitary invited to dinner at the Trump White House.

''The White House is very interested in making this a special visit,'' the official said, adding, ''We are really seeking to roll out the carpet.''

He said one could expect a ''concrete expression'' of US designating India a major defence partner as the Barack Obama administration did in 2016, the official said, refusing to confirm or deny reports the US had cleared the sale of 22 high-tech unarmed drones to India. The designation allows America to extend India the same benefits as it would to its ''closest allies and partners'' in matters of defence trade.

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