Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the US defence industry to set up manufacturing facilities in the country and make India a hub for exports during his meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence in Singapore on Wednesday.
At his meeting with Pence on the sidelines of East Asia Summit and ASEAN summit, Modi “stressed that there was a great opportunity for the United States in India in making defence equipment and setting up defence industry in India”, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters. “Not only that India is a substantial market but because the way we are placed regionally we can become a hub for exports to the rest of the region,” he said in a detailed briefing after the Modi-Pence meet.
The two leaders also stressed need for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific while agreeing that there had been a substantial enhancement in the defence relationship and “our imports of equipment from the United States”, Gokhale said.
The prime minister expressed hope that the Donald Trump administration would recognise defence as a new economic opportunity, he said. “There were some discussions on how we should enhance this sort of trade. In addition, of course there was appreciation of the outcomes of the recently held Ministerial 2+2 and on the follow up to the 2+2, both on the foreign policy side and on the defence side,” Gokhale said.
The discussions touched upon bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues. Modi also conveyed great appreciation that President Trump had organised a meeting in the White House on Tuesday to celebrate Diwali, the foreign secretary said.
Pence specifically acknowledged that India has made substantial progress economically as well as diplomatically in regional and international affairs, and said the US looks forward to working with India on various issues both on political and economic side to ensure “a fair-rules based international order”. Prime Minister reciprocated that sentiment, Gokhale said.
Pence also spoke of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and said India’s contribution in ensuring this would be important.
“Prime Minister referred to his speech here in Singapore in June at the Shangri-La Dialogue in which he had outlined India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific,” Gokhale said. Modi also conveyed to Pence that this vision was gaining acceptability and that “we should utilize the upcoming East Asia Summit to further build up on that”.
The two leaders discussed how both sides can strengthen cooperation to ensure Indo-Pacific is “an area of growth, of prosperity, of development and of benefit for the countries of the region in the future”, Gokhale said.
The two leaders also had a brief discussion on trade-related matters. “We agreed that in a new relationship that we are building with the United States where trade is expanding, we need to find ways in which we can help that process to take place,” Gokhale said.
Modi pointed out that in the last two years, since Trump assumed office, US exports to India have grown by 50%, making India perhaps the only big country with which the US has managed to reduce its trade deficit significantly. The trade gap is on course to further reduce this year.
“We have begun importing oil and gas from United States. It is expected to be valued about $4 billion this year and we expressed our readiness to import more oil and more gas from the United States as a way of expanding our trade,” Gokhale said.
There was also some discussion on the issue of terrorism and Pence referred to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, known as 26/11, later this month. He also appreciated the cooperation between the US and India on counter-terrorism.
“In response, the prime minister, while thanking him for these words, also reminded him that in one way or another all the traces or all the leads in global terror attacks ultimately lead to a single source, a single place of origin, and in that context, he did point out that the mainstreaming of the people involved in Mumbai terror attacks in a political process, which had taken place in a recent election in Pakistan, should be a matter of serious concern not just to the two countries i.e. India and United States, but to the International community,” Gokhale said.
“So there was some good understanding on the area of how we move forward in building cooperation on counter-terrorism and both countries recognised that this is a challenge which we will have to fight together and to fight along with the rest of the international community,” he said.