India has sought to retain equanimity despite the GSP withdrawal and broadsides by Trump against high Indian tariffs

A week after holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, PM Narendra Modi will attempt to tackle a problematical as well as promising relationship with the US.

First up will the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who will touch down in India on a four-nation tour centring around the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. After this visit, PM Modi will meet US President Donald Trump in Osaka to sort out what sources said was reluctance of both sides in their respective areas of interest.

Many of the issues have festered since Pompeo had last visited India late last year. These include increased market access by India for US goods and military equipment and ending oil trade with Iran. Since then, India’s trade troubles with the US have mounted: Washington has removed India from GSP, which reduces tariffs on some products from developing countries.

While the Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, has twice assured the US that India is committed to buying increasing quantities of American oil and defence products, public statements from US leaders, including Trump, have given no cause for comfort.

Yet India believes its usefulness as an anchor to US plans for a security and economic architecture for the Asia-Pacific would eventually balance out the American crusade for better bilateral trade terms. India has sought to retain equanimity despite the GSP withdrawal and broadsides by Trump against high Indian tariffs as reflected by Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal “gracefully” accepting the withdrawal of GSP. Thus India has voluntarily removed an area of discord by admitting that its economy has moved up the development path and does not need the crutches of a lower, preferential duty structure.

At the same time, the US has not been able to move into the Indian defence sector with the expected speed, though New Delhi is about to receive armed drones that it has lobbied with Pentagon for years. Sources expect Pompeo to seek greater traction for the American concept of Indo-Pacific where the subtext is containing China’s security and economic outreach through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But many issues will have to await another day since Pompeo’s focus will be on taking further talks on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and pursuing US interests at the G20.