US ‘optimistic’ about ties with India: Jaishankar

The Trump administration has a “very positive view” of the Indo-US relationship and a lot of interest in taking the ties forward, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said on Saturday after his wide-ranging talks with senior Cabinet members and top officials in Washington.

“Optimistic” about the continuation of the upward trajectory of the bilateral relationship, Jaishankar told Indian reporters that the India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, which was started under the previous Obama administration, would be held later this year.

Dates were being worked out for the India visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to hold the first India US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue under the Trump administration.

“Overall, (the) sense was that the Administration has a very positive view of the relationship, positive view of India,” said Jaishankar, who along with Commerce Secretary Rita Teotia, is on a visit here to engage with the new Trump administration.

“We saw a lot of goodwill and a lot of interest in taking the relationship forward,” he said.

Jaishankar, during his visit, held a number of key meetings here, including with Secretary of State Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Ross, Secretary of Homeland Security Gen (retd) John Kelly, National Security Advisor R McMaster, and Deputy Assistant to the President, Ken Juster.

The visiting Indian officials, accompanied by the Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, also met the top leadership of the US Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and his House counterpart Congressman Ed Royce.

They also met Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India caucus, and Co-Chairs of India Caucus in the House Congressman George Holding and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Jaishankar and Teotia, during their visit, interacted with US businesses through the US India Business Council.

“The (US) Congress has been extraordinarily supportive of the growth of this relationship. Since there has been a change in the political landscape, we thought engaging them was something which was important,” Jaishankar said.

“Broadly with the (US) administration, we explained to them the progress that the India US relation has made in the last many years. So it was a full spectrum (of) discussions,” he said.

With Tillerson, Jaishankar discussed bilateral strategic relationship as well as the situation in Afghanistan and the Asia Pacific region.

Discussions with Secretary Ross were more focused on bilateral trade and economic cooperation, and with the Homeland Secretary, to some extent, issues related to immigration and also welfare of the Indians and Indian American community in the US were discussed.

Jaishankar’s discussions with the Homeland Secretary assume significance in the backdrop of the death of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed in a shooting by an American navy veteran.

Another Indian man Alok Madasani was critically injured while an American, who tried to intervene during the shooting, also sustained injuries.

“Yes, we have a strong sense of optimism. I think, the current administration has a very strong sense of optimism about the relationship,” Jaishankar said in response to a question.

Ross’ own business experience with India has been very positive, he said.

“What we heard across the board in the administration, whether it was business, security, defence cooperation, whether our engagement in the region or working together on international issues, overall a very positive sense of India as a partner,” he said.

“Also, a lot of respect for the economic changes which have taken place in India. An acknowledgement that there has been a very robust growth and that this has made India a particularly attractive partner. So a lot of appetite for working on economic cooperation,” Jaishankar said.

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