Pompeo calls India ‘true strategic partner’ after leaving Islamabad for Delhi

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, while en route for India after Pakistan visit, that India is a “true strategic partner” and “very important to our success in our Indo-Pacific strategy”.

US President Donald Trump’s top two envoys are landing in India today.

The “2+2” meeting in New Delhi of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with counterparts Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman is the first of its kind, reported the AFP.

Pompeo met new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, saying he was hopeful of “a reset of relations” long strained over the war in Afghanistan.

Pompeo’s visit, along with the U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was the first high-level U.S. mission to the new government. It aimed to smooth over tensions after President Donald Trump took a tough new line towards Pakistan over longstanding accusations it is not doing enough to root out Afghan Taliban fighters on its territory.

“We talked about their new government, the opportunity to reset the relationship between our two countries across a broad spectrum,” including business ties and ending the war in Afghanistan, Pompeo told reporters before leaving for India.

“And I’m hopeful that the foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success as we start to move forward.”

India and the US are also close to signing an agreement that would ensure communications between their two militaries are compatible and secure.

“As the world’s largest democracy, we see India taking on a greater regional and global responsibility, a stabilising force,” Mattis said. The talks were expected to touch on expanding the scope of joint military exercises.

It follows Washington’s designation in 2016 of India as a “major defence partner” as the US seeks to turn India into a regional bulwark against China.

The talks were first meant to be held in April and then in June but both were postponed, triggering speculation of a rift.

But Washington also wants India to distance itself from Russia, notably by stepping back from decades of purchases of Russian military equipment.

India, the world’s top defence importer, wants to purchase new systems from Moscow, including its S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missile system.

Under current US rules against Russia, third countries could face sanctions if they transact with Russian defence or intelligence sectors.