Do­val talks fu­ture di­rec­tion with US af­ter 2+2 suc­cess

NSA meets coun­ter­part along with Pompeo, Mattis as both sides seek to build on strate­gic gains from ‘his­toric’ 2+2

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Front Page - Shishir Gupta and Yash­want Raj let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■ Asit Ran­jan Mishra and Gireesh Chan­dra Prasad let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■

National se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor (NSA) Ajit Do­val held talks about the fu­ture of bi­lat­eral ties with the US in a string of meet­ings with top Amer­i­can of­fi­cials on Fri­day, in­clud­ing with his coun­ter­part John Bolton, as In­dia pressed its case for the pur­chase of Rus­sian-made S-400 mis­sile sys­tems.

In­dia con­veyed to the US that the in­tegrity of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary plat­forms in ser­vice with the In­dian Air Force (IAF) and fu­ture ac­qui­si­tions will not be com­pro­mised if New Delhi goes ahead with the pur­chase, back­ing its case with tech­ni­cal ar­gu­ments.

The NSA trav­elled to Wash­ing­ton to con­vey Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s vi­sion of the fu­ture di­rec­tion of Indo-US ties. On the eve of the 2+2 di­a­logue, Modi shared his vi­sion with ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj, de­fence min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man and NSA Do­val.

Sithara­man is ex­pected to travel to Wash­ing­ton, af­ter Pres­i­dent Putin’s Oc­to­ber visit to In­dia, for a bi­lat­eral en­gage­ment with sec­re­tary Mattis. The dates of Sithara­man’s visit are be­ing worked out and she is ex­pected to travel to Wash­ing­ton not be­fore Novem­ber.

At Do­val’s meet­ings with the three US prin­ci­pals, the two coun­tries “re­viewed” the progress in ties and also looked at “re­gional and global de­vel­op­ments” in North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Pak­istan, West Asia and the Indo-Pa­cific. In­dia and US are seek­ing con­ver­sion on their views on sta­bil­ity of Kabul regime with Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani ar­riv­ing in Delhi on Septem­ber 19.

It has been de­cided that the prin­ci­pals from In­dia and the US will bi­lat­er­ally en­gage with their coun­ter­parts apart from the 2+2 di­a­logue. Prior to NSA Do­val’s visit, a high-level In­dian Air Force tech­ni­cal team led by an air mar­shal was in the Pen­tagon last month to con­vince US of­fi­cials of mea­sures In­dia will take to en­sure that elec­tronic sig­na­tures of US aerial plat­forms are not shared even if it ac­quires the S-400 sys­tem from Rus­sia.

The meet­ing with Bolton was Do­val’s first en­gage­ment and was de­scribed as a “good first meet­ing” by an of­fi­cial who didn’t want to be named. Bolton took of­fice in April, and the two of­fi­cials hadn’t had a chance to meet be­fore their talks on Fri­day. Do­val also met sec­re­tary of state Michael Pompeo and sec­re­tary of de­fense James Mattis, for the sec­ond time in as many weeks. He had meet them in Delhi af­ter their 2+2 min­is­te­rial with their In­dian coun­ter­parts Swaraj and Sithara­man on Septem­ber 6.

“The dis­cus­sions were gen­eral and broad-based,” said the of­fi­cial cited above, “fol­low­ing up on the 2+2 and look­ing at the fu­ture di­rec­tion of the strate­gic re­la­tion­ship.”

Do­val’s key task is to con­vince the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that the pro­posed S-400 deal does merit a US pres­i­den­tial waiver from the pro­vi­sions of Coun­ter­ing Amer­ica’s Ad­ver­saries Through the Sanc­tions Act (CAATSA) and that In­dia will re­duce its crude oil pur­chases from Iran be­fore the Novem­ber 4 sanc­tions kick in.

A day af­ter an­nounc­ing mea­sures to boost short-term cap­i­tal in­flows to rein in the ru­pee’s de­cline and curb a widen­ing cur­rent ac­count deficit, the govern­ment said on Satur­day that it would stick to its fis­cal deficit and cap­i­tal spend­ing tar­gets in a sig­nal of its con­tin­ued commitment to fi­nan­cial pru­dence in a pre-elec­tion year.

Fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley, af­ter a re­view meet­ing of all de­part­ments un­der his min­istry chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, said the fis­cal deficit would be con­tained at the tar­geted 3.3% of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Ris­ing oil prices, which have caused petrol and diesel prices at the pump to rise to records, and the de­clin­ing ru­pee, which has de­pre­ci­ated around 13% against the dol­lar since Jan­uary 1, mak­ing it Asia’s worst-per­form­ing cur­rency, are putting fi­nances un­der strain.

THE TWO SIDES ALSO LOOKED AT RE­GIONAL & GLOBAL DE­VEL­OP­MENTS IN NORTH KOREA, CHINA, AFGHANISTAN, PAK­ISTAN, WEST ASIA AND THE INDO­PA­CIFIC

■ Ajit Do­val

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