India and the US are working on mutually convenient dates for the visit of the US President Donald Trump soon. Responding to media queries, a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous said, "An invitation was extended to the US President Donald Trump by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017 and the same was extended again when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the UNGA on September 24, 2019, in New York City. So far, no dates have been confirmed". Briefing media persons in New York last year after the UNGA, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said "Prime Minister Modi had reminded President Trump that we would be looking forward to welcoming him in India whenever he and his family decide to come."
At the 2+2 Ministerial India-US talks in Washington DC, both sides had discussed Trump's visit to India with the officials of that country.
The agenda for talks between the two leaders are expected to cover a wide spectrum of issues including the ongoing tension in the Gulf region, trade, and military cooperation. Since November, there have been a series of meetings between officials from both sides trying to conclude a trade agreement as well as agreements in other sectors. Financial Express Online had first reported in November last year that visit of the US president was being planned in 2020 and that the dates were being worked on.
India-US Military Trade
Both sides have concluded $18 billion dollars military trade and the two sides have set $ 25 billion as a target in the next few years. India has played a very important role in creating jobs in the defence manufacturing sector in the US and the defence relationship has emerged as a major pillar of India-US strategic partnership. Several deals are at different levels of negotiations and once completed are expected to increase the defence trade.
Last months the two sides inked the Industrial Security Annexe agreement as well as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Framework for DTTI.
The critical role played by an Indian American in Military Trade
One Indian American Dr Vivek Lall, who presently is the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin (LM) Aeronautics has played a significant role in some of the big-ticket item deals which India has procured from the US. Lall who has led in several campaigns including pan India strategic industrial tie-ups and also hold the distinction of being commended by several US Presidents in his career.
Some of the deals concluded by him included the P8I Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft for the Indian Navy, C-17 Globemaster III (military transport aircraft), anti-ship Harpoon missiles, the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian Attack Helicopters, and CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF). In 2019, the Trump administration put its seal of approval for the sale of $2.6 billion twenty-four MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters for the Indian Navy.
The US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is offering its F21 fighter aircraft to the IAF competition.
India-US Energy Ties
Besides defence trade, energy too is an important component in the Indo-US trade mix. India is currently importing around $4 billion worth of oil and gas from the US. BP PLC, Exxon Mobil, Schlumberger, Total S.A, Baker Hughes, Cheniere Energy, Dominion Energy, are some of the top US energy companies looking at the Indian market and had participated in the roundtable on energy in Houston last year.
Due to the crisis in the Gulf region, India has been exploring other markets for its energy security. India has already stopped crude import from Iran and also from Venezuela.
As has been reported earlier, the US is the world's top oil producers after Russia and Saudi Arabia. Interestingly Texas alone produces more crude oil than Iran and Iraq.
Modi-Trump Telephone Talk
Earlier this month in a telephone conversation, Modi reiterated that New Delhi will continue to work with Washington for enhancing cooperation in all areas of mutual interest. The call came close on the heels of the US airstrike in which Iranian intelligence chief and Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and other military officials were killed in Iraq.