Ram Madhav reassures US officials on China reset, Putin meeting
In meetings with senior officials at the White House and the State Department on Monday, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav sought to reassure them that India’s engagement with China, Russia or any other country would have no impact on bilateral ties with the United States. Mr. Madhav told officials that India was happy about America’s economic stability and New Delhi considered ties with America a fundamental strategic priority for the long term.
The Sangh Parivar ideologue, who has been articulating the Narendra Modi government’s strategic priorities, met Lisa Curtis, Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the White House National Security Council, Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, and Director of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff and Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
Mr. Madhav’s meetings with these officials took place in the backdrop of curiosity in the U.S capital over Mr. Modi’s recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Madhav is understood to have conveyed to America that the Putin meeting took place at Russia’s behest. Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh’s recent visit to North Korea also figured in these conversations.
Talking to The Hindu before these meetings, Mr. Madhav said: “Regional politics requires that we build strong relationships with all countries. Some of these countries have difficult relationships with the U.S. Our ties with the U.S are unaffected by it. India -US ties are of great value for both countries.”
Mr. Madhav said India wants furtherance of cooperation with the U.S in trade and defence matters. “Especially defence production. We are looking forward to investment and technology transfer. We would like to be seen not merely as a market, but as a manufacturing hub for Indo-Pacific and beyond.”
American sanctions against other countries, particularly Russia, mandated by CAATSA, or Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, also figured in Mr. Madhav’s conversations with American interlocutors. India could be affected by the sanctions, but New Delhi is taking a wait and watch approach on the issue. India hopes that U.S. lawmakers have realised the self-defeatist nature of the law and would soon amend it. American defence companies that eye big contracts from India are expected to weigh in on lawmakers. “But this has not happened yet,” a senior executive of a defence company told The Hindu. While individual companies are taking a cautious approach, business bodies such as the US India Business Council and the The U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) are actively lobbying Congress to change the law.
Just as Mr. Madhav was meeting American officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to enlist India in the new U.S. campaign against Iran, in a public speech. This may not be the course India would prefer, Mr. Madhav indicated earlier. “Our bilateral ties [with Iran] have all along been trade-centric. Iran continues to be one of the major suppliers of oil and gas for India. This situation has been there even during the severe sanctions against Iran,” the BJP leader said. Mr. Madhav said the Modi government has a “de-hyphenated foreign policy” approach. “This means our relations with different countries are independent of their relations with a third country. And there are regional imperatives. That has no impact on the strategic nature of India-US ties,” he said.