Top U.S. officials to head to India this week, to discuss bilateral ties and Quad dates

Top U.S. officials to head to India this week, to discuss bilateral ties and Quad dates

Visits come amidst cloud over Pannun case indictment, declined Republic Day invitation and speculation over trouble in India-U.S. ties

Top U.S. diplomats will travel to Delhi this week to discuss bilateral issues, energy cooperation and are also expected to discuss possible dates for the Quad Summit with U.S.-Australia-Japan-India leaders as well as shore up ties amidst speculation of a ‘pause’ in the past few months. According to sources, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu will travel to Delhi for the meetings, as well as to attend the U.S.-India Forum organised by think tank Ananta Centre. Amongst other officials expected to attend the closed-door seminar, that will be off-limits to the public and the media, are Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, Pentagon officials, officials from the White House National Security Council dealing with India and with climate issues, as well as U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan are expected to address the forum slated for January 27-29 on the Indian side.

Mr. Lu was last in India in November for the 2+2 dialogue, which was overshadowed by the U.S. FBI case against an Indian national for an attempted assassination plot against Khalistani separatist in the U.S. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, that also accused an unnamed Indian security official. The Indian national Nikhil Gupta lost a case against his extradition in Prague earlier this week in a Czech appeals court that ruled that he could be sent to the U.S., and while officials did not confirm the case would come up, it is expected to be discussed. He is also expected to discuss the Quad agenda for the upcoming year, where India is the Chair of the grouping. New Delhi had earlier proposed to hold the summit this weekend, on January 27, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited U.S. President Joseph Biden as chief guest for Republic Day on the 26th. However, after the U.S. declined the invitation last month, French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to step in, and is due to arrive in India on Thursday. 

Election seasons

The U.S. decision to turn down the Republic Day invite, and the U.S.’s allegations in the Pannun matter had led to speculation over trouble in the India-U.S. relationship. In addition, possible dates for the Quad summit are unclear as both the U.S. and India enter their election seasons, with the possible window in February fast closing. The U.S. officials in Delhi, who are expected to be followed by other senior White House and National Security Council officials in February for the MEA and ORF-organised Raisina Dialogue on February 21-23, will seek to keep up the momentum in ties from 2023, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to the U.S. for a State visit and concluded a number of agreements. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. State department announced a visit by Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffrey R. Pyatt from January 26-31 to Delhi and Hyderabad to address the Forum and to speak about India and the U.S.’s “shared agenda around energy transition, reliable supply chains, and energy security.” 

Mr. Pyatt had visited India in 2022 and 2023 to discuss similar issues, as well as to speak about the need to abide by the G7-EU and Australia ‘price caps’ on Russian oil, and sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine war. Last week the U.S. treasury announced it was imposing its first sanctions of the year on a UAE company for transporting Russian oil above the “price cap”, that prohibits services like insurance, shipping and freight to such transactions. While India does not accept non-UN unilateral sanctions, it has thus far kept its purchases below the price cap, officials said.

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