The United States is looking forward to strengthening its ties with India, the Trump Administration has said ahead of the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump next week. "We're looking forward to strengthening ties between the United States and India," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at her daily news conference. Modi and Trump are scheduled to meet at the White House on Monday. This would be the first meeting between the two leaders. After Trump won the presidential elections last November, the two leaders have spoken over phone three times, the last being Trump's congratulatory phone call after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. A number of key issues, including ways to step up cooperation in effectively combating terrorism and further strengthening defence ties, are also likely to figure during the talks between the two leaders. Here are five key issues on the trip's agenda: 1) Economic cooperation: "One of the agendas of the visit is how to further push and develop economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries for mutual benefit," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said when asked about the focus of the Modi-Trump meeting. Refusing to give further details, he said all matters of bilateral interests will be on the table, adding, "The leaders will have an entire gamut of relationship in front of them when they talk." 2) Taking ties further: The MEA spokesperson said the Indo-US relationship has been very robust and strong and the thrust of the visit would be to take it further. Writing for thewire.in, Seema Sirohi argues that a "public validation" of the strategic partnership between the two nations by Trump would be important.
Trump’s "unpredictability", Sirohi explains, has sent India "back to the hedging table, reinvigorating old friendships and exploring new ones". (Read more)3) Pakistan and China: Asked whether Modi will raise with Trump the issue of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Baglay said India's concerns regarding it are very well known and that it was logical to assume that matters relating to regional and global security will be discussed. "Terrorism that emanates from there (Pakistan) affects not only India, but other countries in South Asia and the world over," he said. According to a Reuters report from earlier this week, the Trump administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan. Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Sirohi argues that Modi would also want to get a clearer picture of Trump’s policy towards China and Washington’s future course of action. 4) Defence deals: As reported earlier, The Indian armed forces will be getting 22 American-made Guardian drones after the US cleared their sale ahead of PM Modi's visit to Washington for his maiden meeting with US President Donald Trump. The clearance comes just days after the announcement of the possibility of making American F-16 fighter jets in India under the Modi government's Make in India programme. The F-16 assembly line will only shift to India if the government selects the jet for the Indian Air Force. Before taking any such decision, both sides will have to hold comprehensive discussions. 5) H-1B visas: According to a Reuters report, Indian Trade Secretary Ria Teaotia told reporters this week the H-1B visa programme, under which Indian IT firms send large numbers of professionals to the United States, would be one of the one issues on the table during Modi's visit.