Secretary Pompeo & Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar At a Press Availability

FOREIGN MINISTER JAISHANKAR:  Good afternoon.  It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome Secretary Pompeo to India.  As many of you know, he is the first foreign minister I am hosting after assuming charge as external affairs minister, so it’s a particular privilege.  He’s also the first senior figure from the Trump administration to come at the – after this government assumed office.  And as someone who’s been associated over many years with the growth of India’s relations with the United States, I’m particularly pleased to see him today and to welcome him.

India and the United States have a strategic partnership, and that is actually based on deep and broad convergences, which have been steadily growing over the last many years.  Obviously, there will be some issues on which we have our individual perspectives. But I think for us today, both as countries and as foreign ministers, harmonizing our interests and our views, that’s really the task of diplomacy and I think Secretary Pompeo would agree with me today that we’ve earned our pay.

Now, both of us are guided by the big picture of the relationship.  That vision was – as currently was set out in the many meetings starting with the June 2017 meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump.  Obviously, from time to time in any relationship specific issues will arise, and I think we’ve discussed many of those issues, largely in the framework of that big picture.  Today, our discussions covered trade issues, energy issues, defense issues, investment concerns, and people-to-people contacts between India and the U.S.  As foreign ministers, we both are very conscious of our responsibility to deliver on the vision of our leaders, and in doing so therefore our discussions took a very integrated view of all the domains which the relationship deals with.

Now, in greater specifics, I think we discussed a number of bilateral and global issues.  On terrorism, I took the opportunity to express our appreciation for the strong support that we have received from the Trump administration.  What we see is really zero tolerance for cross-border terrorism.  We have, of course, prime minister’s initiative for a global conference on terrorism, and I’m sure that’s something the U.S. would look at positively.

We had a discussion on our defense cooperation.  That, again, has been a very encouraging story over the last decade or more.  Today, we operate a number of American-origin platforms and other equipment.  And the key point here is that if that is to continue to grow, it’s important that we display trust and confidence in each other.

There’s been a steady appreciation, a steady liberalization of American laws and regulations pertaining to defense and high technology, and that’s something, again, I would thank Secretary Pompeo and the administration.

We also discussed energy issues, and I underlined the importance of stability, predictability, and affordability in terms of India’s energy imports.  Again, you all know that we have started sourcing some of our energy from the United States in recent years.

On trade and investments, the U.S. is today our largest trade partner.  It’s among our key investment sources as well.  And what has been clear in the last few years is that as both economies have grown strongly, new opportunities have been created by new demands.  And we were both very optimistic about where our economic relationship is going and can go.

On some outstanding issues, particularly relating to trade, my urging was that we take a constructive and pragmatic view of that, which is natural – when you have trade, there will be trade issues.  And I think the real test of our intentions is our ability to address them effectively.

Where the Government of India is concerned, we are committed to making it easier to do business, to provide a level playing field, and to grow with the world economy.  And striking the right balance between these concerns is what we are trying to do.

We spent a little time discussing people-to-people relations.  It’s the natural constituency of our ties.  I think today PIOs, non-resident Indians, students, professionals of business, technology, academics – they all contribute to what makes our ties with the United States unique.  I think Secretary Pompeo in his own previous careers is very conversant with that.  So I’m confident that there will be greater understanding of this particular factor in our ties.

On global issues, we discussed Afghanistan.  Secretary Pompeo came in directly from Kabul.  So he briefed me about some of the discussions he had there.  In turn, I spoke of our concerns and our interest there.  We also had a discussion, a fairly detailed discussion of the situation in the Gulf.  I think he knows that we have big stakes there, stakes of energy, of diaspora, of trade, of regional stability.

We had also a talk of – over lunch on the Indo-Pacific.  On the Indo-Pacific, the point – the big point I made was that the Indo-Pacific is for something, not against somebody.  And that something is peace, security, stability, prosperity, and rules.  So we’re really looking at a landscape where a number of independent players today work together for what they believe to be global good.

So this, from my perspective, is broadly sort of a summary of what we have spent the last few hours on.  Secretary Pompeo met the prime minister in the morning and also with the national security advisor.  We then from here independently journeyed to Japan, so I guess we’re going to see each other there.  So – but I again welcome him.  I look forward to really a close working relationship with him, and I’m very, very confident that together we can really take the relationship between our two countries to a different level.  And may I, Secretary, invite you to make your remarks.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you.  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s great to be here.  It’s great for me to be able to get in here so quickly after the election, the enormous election that Prime Minister Modi won.  Having run a few campaigns myself, it was incredibly impressive, and the mandate that he’s received I think is incredibly important.

Minister Jaishankar, it’s great to be with you.  It’s great to have a chance to spend as much time as we had here today.  I know we’ll get a chance to do that regularly and frequently, and I very much look forward to that.  I’m confident that we have the benefit of building on a strong foundation between two of the world’s great democracies.  We saw this in the election, we saw this incredible democratic vigor lead to a wonderful outcome.

In recent decades, our relationship has made real strides, but there’s an awful lot more that we can do together.  And we had a chance to talk about each of those big strategic opportunities between two great countries.  We can in this context see each other not just as bilateral partners but as something much bigger than that: as friends who can help each other all around the world.

In addition to conveying President Trump’s best wishes, I also had the chance to discuss with Prime Minister Modi these historic opportunities.  And I’ll elaborate on our potential in the speech at the India International Centre a little bit later this afternoon.  In fact, I can say that the U.S.-India partnership is already beginning to reach new heights.  We’ve bolstered our defense cooperation, we’ve solidified our common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we’ve grown cooperation in energy and in space and in other areas.  I know, too, we’ll have another opportunity to expand these bonds when Acting Secretary of Defense Esper and I welcome the foreign minister and Minister Singh to the United States later this year for the second ever 2+2.  I will have then been a part of 100 percent of the strategic 2+2 dialogues.

The United States is committed to ensuring that India has the military capabilities it needs to uphold its territorial integrity and to confront 21st-century challenges.  Completing the various military agreements we have already agreed to will help us hit that goal, and the United States is pursuing a range of efforts to meet President Trump’s commitment to shared defense equipment and technology with India, as we do with our closest partners.

India’s own experience with terrorism is very real; we know that.  As the blasts that ripped through the Sri Lankan churches last Easter Sunday have shown, terrorism is a constant in this region, and India’s ability to fight it should be second to none.  Our teams will continue to work together to improve information sharing, intelligence sharing, and strengthen India’s ability to fight terrorism.

And on that subject, I just came, as the foreign minister said, from Kabul.  The core of America’s Afghanistan talks is a resolve that terrorists can never again exploit Afghanistan for their evil purposes.  We are intensely grateful for India’s advice and support to ensure that we are successful in this endeavor.  Great friends are bound to have disagreements.  The United States has been clear we seek greater market access and the removal of trade barriers in our economic relationship.  And today, I addressed these differences in the spirit of friendship, and I think that the two of us will be able to see a good outcome for each of our two countries.  And we’ll keep working to resolve any economic disputes – not only those that we have at this moment, but those that with any significant trading relationship inevitably arise.

Look, we’ve got to get this piece right, the economic piece right, because there are a myriad of opportunities that lay before us in the Indo-Pacific region.  Countries in this part of the world which have signed on to the Belt and Road projects have found Beijing’s deals come not with strings attached, but with shackles.  Countries are looking to provide infrastructure, digital connectivity, and energy supplies to their people without relinquishing their sovereignty.  We, together, should act quickly to fulfill the ambitious vision for prosperity that’s shared by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi – not just for our own people, but for the good of the region and the world.

Know this:  When 1.7 billion people in the world’s two largest democracies come together, we can do great things.  And I look forward to working with you on them.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  We now move to the question-and-answer session.  First up, two questions from the Indian media.  Maha, and then Reza (ph).  Maha, you go first.

QUESTION:  Hello, sir.  Maha Siddiqui from CNN-News18.  My question is for Secretary Pompeo.  Sir, on the one hand, America recognizes India as a vital strategic partner and friend.  How do you then explain the threat of a possible sanction on the CAATSA for India if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal with Russia, as well as warnings or notices with regard to trade issues that are periodically issued from the American side?

And to the EM:  Sir, this is with regards to the U.S.-Iran tension.  Did Secretary Pompeo explain to you what the situation is like?  And as far as your concern, did you communicate to him exactly what bearing it could have on India and the region specifically with regard to energy security and on the Chabahar Port issue?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you for your question.  You asked in particular about trade disputes and the S-400 challenge that we face.  I want to back up just a level to the importance that you have.  You predicated your question on the fact that we are friends, and that we work together.  That never in any relationship that I’ve been part of as the Secretary of State, I’ve never found a partner and ally, no matter how close, where you didn’t have rubs, you didn’t have places where you had to work through things.

On each of those two issues, we had a chance to talk today, to try and plot a path forward so that we can do the right thing for both countries.  When you think about each of those two issues, right, we are endeavoring to make sure that each of our countries can provide security for itself.  We want India to be able to do that as well, and we want to have a flourishing economic relationship, a trade relationship that is free and as each country having the opportunity for foreign direct investment in the other’s country, to grow jobs and create wealth in each country.  When I think about the two issues you raise, I think about them as real opportunities, things that I know that we can work together on, will perform a – provide a foundation for the relationship.

It is – I said this in a speech I gave now I guess a week back or so, I talked about that – certainly it’s the case that the United States is an important partner for India.  You should know we all believe – not just in the administration, but on Capitol Hill as well – that India is an important friend and partner for the United States of America as well, that America is an enormous beneficiary of the success that India has and continues to have, and I know with Prime Minister Modi we’ll continue to exploit.

So when I stare at these issues, they’re issues of the moment, we will find a way to work through them, and I know that when we come out on the other side of each of those, the relationship will be stronger and we’ll have done great things together.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER JAISHANKAR:  Thank you.  Yes, the short answer to your question is we did discuss the situation in the Gulf.  And I obviously shared with Secretary Pompeo what are our interests and our concerns, and energy security is part of it, but I think there are other concerns as well.  As my opening remarks told you, concerns about diaspora, about regional security, about trade.  And you know that when the world looks difficult to some extent, a lot of countries, at least those with capabilities, do deploy those capabilities to look after their interests.  We have deployed some of them in the Gulf to make sure that our interests and sort of there’s a larger sort of stabilizing impact on the region.  So I think we had a very, very frank and very open discussion on that.  Specifically, Chabahar did not come up because at the moment I don’t see an outstanding concern there.

But, if Secretary Pompeo doesn’t mind, I want to barge into his question a little bit and give you sort of buy-one-get-one-free answer.  (Laughter.)  Look, if you trade with somebody, and particularly they’re your biggest trading partners, it’s impossible that you don’t have trade issues.  But I think the sign of a mature relationship is that ability to negotiate your way through that and find common ground.  Perhaps that’s not been as effective as it could and should have been in the recent past, but I think both of us are leaving this meeting convinced that we both need to tell our governments that they need to try harder and make sure this happens.

On the CAATSA issue, again, I think Secretary Pompeo knows, and I’ve explained to him in some detail – I mean, we have many relationships with many countries.  Many of them are of some standing, they have a history.  So I think we will do what is in our national interest, and again, part of that strategic partnership is the ability of each country to comprehend and appreciate the national interest of the other.

MODERATOR:  Reza (ph), please go ahead.

QUESTION:  My question is for both the ministers.  And I was wondering, I mean, there’s been a lot of talk about how there’s been a lot of convergence on the strategic partnership in areas such as security, counter-terrorism.  But we keep hearing of the differences that have been cropping up over the last few years, last few months, especially on trade.  Is this something that you feel will detract from the overall positive quality of the partnership?  I mean situations like Iran or even Afghanistan, where India is not very keen on a quick pullout.  And also for both of you, is there enough understanding of India’s concerns in Washington?


FOREIGN MINISTER JAISHANKAR:  All right, thank you.  Look, today Secretary Pompeo said something which resonated with me, which was – he said, you know, we – there’s been a lot of noise.  We need to filter through the noise and get down to the basics of the relationship.  I would – look, this has been a great relationship.  Look at where it is now.  Think of it every five years before that.

So again, many of – much of that noise wouldn’t be happening if we didn’t have that relationship.  So I want you to appreciate that.  I would urge you not to be carried away by some of that noise.  Instead, look at that – the basics.  Look at our ability in the past to address a lot of that.  I would suggest to you the record’s not – it’s actually quite good.  So I’m very confident, and my confidence has been reaffirmed today of our ability to address some of the outstanding issues.  But at the end of the day, I am actually very reassured of the solidity of this relationship.

You had one – a second part.  Yes, should something be done more in Washington.  Well, this is a start.  So yes, of course.  I mean, look, it’s in the nature of the American political system, which is quite different from us – so they’re part of the American system, which is not the administration, the Congress.  So obviously we need to be reaching out to them.  We have been reaching out to them.  So I mean, there’s always more work to be done.  Every relationship, particularly big ones, are always work in progress.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  And I don’t have much to add to your first part.  I’ll talk about your second one.  Your question was:  Are Indian interests understood in the United States?  I actually think they are.  I served as a member of Congress for a number of years.  I had a chance to observe firsthand people from my district come in and talk to me, Indian people come in and talk about Indian issues.  I had government officials come visit with me.  I think most elected officials, most government leaders get a chance to see that.  So I do think there’s a deep, keen appreciation.

I also think there is even more broadly throughout the United States, there’s a large Indian American community there.  So people have had experience and understand.  Many of those have family members that live here in India.  I do think there’s a deep appreciation for India, and I think they’ve watched as India’s grown and the good things have happened, and I think they welcome that.  I know that the leadership in the administration does, and the senior leadership on Capitol Hill too.

Your first question was about the noise.  I’ve been at this long enough – the press is always going to write about the noise.  It’s the story, it’s the moment.  It doesn’t capture the full range and scope of the relationship.  It’s the one half of 1 percent, but it makes a good story, it’s good for 14 print at the top of the page, or the chyron scrolling across the screen.  I get it.  Our task is to do our best to continue to keep the relationship moored and founded and growing, and then work through that, take down each of those pieces of noise, and do so with frankly as little theater as possible.  Just work, work in a sincere way with our friends to get the outcomes that are good for both of our people.

MODERATOR:  I now request my counterpart from the U.S. State Department, Morgan Ortagus, to identify the media person from the USA.  Please.

MS ORTAGUS:  Thank you, good afternoon.  We’re going to have two questions from the U.S.  First, we’ll start with Chris Ruddy from Newsmax.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Morgan.  Mr. Secretary, Minister, you brushed on the subject of Iran.  This has been a pressing issue for the United States right now, almost crisis mode.  And you mentioned India gets about 10 percent of its oil imported from – traditionally from Iran.  How significant was Iran part of your discussions today?  You mentioned the word “common ground” discussing about trade, Minister.  Was there any discussion or areas of common ground in how the West and India confronts Iran?  And maybe you could also discuss some of the areas of disagreement.

And I would just have one follow-up on the issue of trade.  Is there – was there any discussion about the U.S. lifting President Trump’s decision to, and the – having India on the GSP and reversing that decision?  Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’ll take the second one, you take the first one?

We didn’t discuss the lifting of that.  What we agreed we would do was we’d go work through the problem set, that we’d go – there are tariffs and counter-tariffs, and we said we’re going to do our best to make sure that all the right people get in all the right places and work through these problem sets so that we can get out of this and get on with the business of growing each of our two economies.

FOREIGN MINISTER JAISHANKAR:  Again, it’s a little bit of a repetition, but really, I mean we have a certain perspective on Iran, obviously, from where we are based.  And the Secretary shared with me the American concerns on Iran.  I would say frankly I guess both of us certainly came out much better informed of each other’s concerns in that regard.

In terms of common ground, though I used it for trade, we have common ground on energy as well.  I mean, for us it is important that global energy supplies remain predictable, that they remain affordable.  And I think that’s a concern to which Secretary Pompeo was certainly very, very receptive.  I think he understands that this is today the world’s fifth-largest economy, which imports 85 percent of its energy, a large part of it, from the Gulf.  So I think he certainly gets – I guess I’m speaking for him, but I think looking at his face he certainly gets what our interests are.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’ll just add on Iran, Chris.  Look, we all know that we need to keep that waterway open for the reasons that were just described.  We also know that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and we know the Indian people, how they have suffered from terror around the world.  So I think there is a shared understanding of threat and a common purpose to ensure that we can keep energy at the right prices and deter this threat – not only the threat in the narrow confines of the Middle East, but the threat that this terror regime poses to the entire world.

MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  We’ll now have Jennifer Hansler from CNN.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Secretary Pompeo, earlier today two U.S. servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan.  This comes a day after you were in that country.  Do you have any response?  The Taliban have said this was an ambush on their part.  Is this going to affect the talks this week at all?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I saw the reports of the two U.S. servicemember who were reported to have been killed.  This is tragic.  My condolences certainly go out to them.  I’m praying for them, for their families, and for all the soldiers that were around them.  I think this drives home the need for us to be successful, right.  The mission set that we’ve undertaken in Afghanistan is a reconciliation to reduce the level of violence, to reduce the level of risk to Afghans, broadly, and the risk to American servicemembers.  So I think what you’ll see is a continued push by the United States to achieve the reconciliation and the reduction in risk that the President set out as the mission set for the State Department and for the United States Government.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, External Affairs Minister.  Thank you, Secretary of State.  This concludes the press interaction.  Thank you all for joining.