Trump renews offer to mediate on Kashmir, but skirts CAA

Trump renews offer to mediate on Kashmir, but skirts CAA

India, U.S. now ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partners’, ink deals on energy

India and the United States on Tuesday strengthened their partnership with agreements on healthcare and energy, and issued a joint statement that designated the two countries as “Comprehensive Global Strategic partners”.

The statement followed bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump, during which the later renewed his offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and discussed the issue of “religious freedom”.

The discussions took place at Hyderabad House even as communally-charged mob violence in several parts of the city left homes and shops burning.

Addressing a press conference later in the evening, Mr. Trump, however, said he had not discussed the specifics of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, that sparked the violence as he raised issues of “religious liberty” of “Muslims and Christians in India” with Mr. Modi.

“We did talk about religious freedom, and Prime Minister Modi told me very strongly that he wants religious freedom in India, and that they have worked very hard for it here,” he said.

Mr. Trump also said he had discussed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir with Mr ModiRenewing his offer of mediating between India and Pakistan, which India has consistently rejected, he said the issue of Kashmir had “two sides”.

“I said I will help, do whatever I can do, because my relationship with both gentlemen [PMs of India and Pakistan] is so good. Anything I can do to mediate, anything I can do to help, I will do,” he said, adding that while he understood that the two countries would discuss the issue of Kashmir between them, they had been “at it for a “very long time” without results.

Mr. Trump praised Prime Minister Modi as a “very religious and calm man” and thanked India for the welcome he received both in Ahmedabad and in Delhi. When asked specifically about the CAA, he said the issue was India’s internal matter, and “hopefully they will make the right decision for the people.”

 He also referred to the $3 billion purchases of helicopters and other military hardware as a key takeaway of the visit. “They’re buying a lot (of American defence equipment). They’re also going to be buying a lot of our energy; we are going to be the number one country in energy, so that will be exciting,” Mr. Trump said, referring to an MoU on LNG pipeline infrastructure signed between Indian Oil Corporation, and US companies ExxonMobil and Chart industries.

However, two pending agreements between LNG companies Tellurian and Petronet as well as the Westinghouse agreement for nuclear reactors have not yet been finalised.

Other agreements flagged by the Ministry of External Affairs on Space and Intellectual Property Rights also were not finalised during the visit. An MEA official said the unfinished agreements “had some procedural delays and should be ready soon”.

Group on narcotics

The two sides agreed to a “joint working group” (JWG) on fighting narcotics as part of their homeland security dialogue and two MoUs on mental health and safety of medical products were signed. While Indian and U.S. negotiators failed to forge a trade deal in time for Mr. Trump’s visit, Mr. Modi said they would work on a legal framework for a future deal.

A few hours after their joint appearance, Mr. Trump addressed an hour-long press conference alone, where he criticised India once again for the “highest tariffs in the world”, including on the Harley Davidson motorcycles. On strategic issues, Mr. Modi hailed the military and defence partnership and also spoke of their cooperation on keeping a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“This cooperation is particularly important for rule based international order, especially in Indo-Pacific and global commons,” Mr. Modi said.

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