Lot of positive developments in Jammu and Kashmir, India tells US

India on Tuesday conveyed to the United States on Tuesday that there has been a “great deal of positive developments” in Jammu and Kashmir and two groups of envoys including US ambassador Kenneth Juster had visited it.

Briefing reporters about talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the talks were in five or six major categories including security and defence, energy, technology and trade, people-to-people contacts and some regional issues.

He said the discussions were “extremely comprehensive and extremely cordial” and there was excellent rapport and chemistry between two leaders.

Terming the visit of US President as “historic”, he said there was a great deal of appreciation for warmth and hospitality shown by the leadership and the people.

India’s Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said the visit had sent a very significant message in America about warmth and affection with the kind of reception accorded at popular level.

On security and defence, Shringla said there was an understanding that the two countries have a strong strategic partnership.

“It is now referred to as a comprehensive strategic global partnership. This is a partnership that has encompassed an extraordinary increase in exchanges as well as in cooperation in various realms of defence domain. In defence, we conduct some of the largest joint military exercises. We also have a very good defence trade and technology initiative which involves joint research and development, joint technology transfers. The President was very clear that he would give the highest consideration to India for procurement and technology transfer,” Shringla said.

He said India was looking at very fast clearances of cutting-edge technologies and joint collaborations.

Shringla said India has imported about USD 9 billion of defence equipment in the last five years.

He said the two sides have decided to set up a working group for cooperation on narcotics and it is a high priority for both countries.

“We have decided to reinvigorate homeland security dialogue for which we will be looking for dates as soon as possible. A lot is covered in the realm,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary said energy has emerged one of the important areas of bilateral cooperation.

“We have moved from a country that has not sourced any of its energy requirements from the US to sourcing USD 7 billion in 2019 and we expect to source up to 9 billion including crude and LNG,” he said, adding that India was also diversifying its sources of energy.

“We are not just sourcing these products but investing in production and technology. It is multi-faceted,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary said India was considering the import of metallurgical coal from the US.

On trade, he said there has been useful and comprehensive discussion and it has increased steadily.

Shringla said there has been a noticeable decline in adverse trade balance from USD 30 billion a few years ago to under USD 25 billion.

He said the two sides decided that they will conclude ongoing discussions as soon as possible give it a legal framework. The text, he said, will be finalised with legal vetting as soon as possible.

The two leaders also decided to move towards a big deal in the trade sector.

“We have reached a certain level of understanding on trade issues, we need to bring that to closure. What we are talking is providing legal basis to the text concluding this round of negotiations. After which the intention of two leaders is to facilitate the commencement of `big deal'”, he said.

Shringla said the difference between the two is that in the first “whatever we do in terms of tariffs and quantitative restrictions will be on MFN basis” whereas in the second and more important agreement, it will be on a bilateral basis.

He said India had raised totalisation agreement on social security and added that there was a sense that Indian professionals who spend less than eight years but contribute to social security and other benefits in US system need to get the money back if they spend less than the minimum time.

He said the US also announced US International Development Finance Corporation will establish a permanent office in India and at the same time make available USD 600 million of concessional financing that is also overall efforts to boost cooperation in Indo-Pacific.

The two leaders also discussed tackling pandemics, particularly in the context of spread of coronavirus.

“On the question of Jammu and Kashmir we did share the fact that there has been a great deal of positive developments and recently we have had two groups of envoys visiting Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Shringla said the focus was now on development, how to attract more tourism to state and things were moving in the right direction.

He said there was an appreciation that a great deal has been done in moving in that direction.

India had revoked Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir last year as a step to boost development and tackle terrorism.

Referring to Blue Dot initiative, he said there was certain level of convergence in terms of idea. He said the initiative was new and India will study it.

Referring to Quad initiative, he said it was raised tangentially.

Answering a query, he said India-US partnership was based on bipartisan support in the US and will continue to do so.

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