The US on Wednesday hailed India for cutting off oil imports from sanctions-hit Iran and desisting from buying petroleum products from Venezuela and promised to do “everything” possible to ensure that the energy-hungry country gets adequate crude.
Delivering a lecture here, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo welcomed India’s “assertiveness” in international matters and pitched for a “new kind” of Indo-US cooperation, leaving behind the “nagging misconceptions” and “distrust” witnessed in the earlier era which “still lingers”.
Pompeo, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar earlier in the day, said the two sides spoke about “new age of ambitions of our proud nations”.
He emphasized that the two countries should not “see each other from the narrow bilateral lens” but look at the world as it is.
“We have the ability to forge a new kind of cooperation that won’t be good only for us, for the region but for the entire world,” the Secretary of State said in the lecture on ‘India-US policy’.
“There’s a nagging misconception. The distrust of earlier era still lingers. But that is not true. Just look at what has already happened. You have made hard choices to cut off oil imports from Iran and move away from purchasing Venezuelan oil,” he said.
He was referring to the decision taken by the Indian oil companies after the US withdrew in May its waiver granted to them for importing oil from Iran.
Iran had been one of the key sources of oil for India, which needs increasing energy in view of its fast economic growth.
“We know these decisions weren’t without cost. We are doing everything we can to ensure you have adequate crude imports,” Pompeo assured.
“We appreciate that you have been pushing these countries to behave and see that Venezuela takes care of its people,” he added.
The US Secretary of State also appreciated India for supporting “global pressure” on North Korea to encourage its leader to come to the discussion table and subsequent denuclearization.
“Your Navy recently joined our Navy alongside those of Japan and Philippines for a group sail for the first time in South China Sea, where we are able to reinforce our partnership in the field of navigation throughout the international waterways,” he added.
“Recently too, India voted against giving NGO status to a Palestinian group that worked closely with terrorist group Hamas, because rewarding terror groups is just wrong and India and the US know it,” he said.
He also mentioned India’s contribution of $3 bn dollars for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and said favoured cooperation to ensure that the country does not again become a hive for terrorists.
After mentioning all these, Pompeo said: “India is more and more standing-up on the world stage and we welcome your assertiveness because it is good for the world. That is why we have supported you for permanent seat in the UNSC. We have seen it is possible when we work together for common good all around the world.”
Talking in the bilateral context, he said it is time to think differently as “right now, we have absolutely perfect chance to go even further than many have dreamt”.
He said the two countries have “great leaders” in US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “who are not afraid to blaze great trails and not afraid to take risks where appropriate”.
The Secretary of State then posed some questions like, “Are we poised to do incredible things for our own people, for the region and for the world?… Can we work more closer?”
He also wondered whether the two countries can have “more robust defence relations”, sharing doctrines, and whether they can have more closer ties to secure maritime navigation lines.
In this context, he said Iran recently attacked ships in the Gulf of Oman while China was becoming dominant in South China Sea.
Turning to the issue of terrorism, he noted that Modi had recently called on all countries to act against the scourge, like Trump did in Riyadh two years ago.
He also referred to the sanctioning of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar by the UN Security Council recently and expressed happiness over it.
Later this year, he said, India and the US will participate in tri-services exercises.
He added: “Just as we seek our governments instinctively to turn one another’s partners, we seek the same thing from our companies. Can we? Can we ask our private industry to disengage from countries with weak rule of law…”
Hailing India’s IT sector as “more than a digital miracle” and a “source of national pride”, the Secretary of State said: “Can we work together as partners, such as Japan to keep India’s networks, 5G networks in future safe and reliable? I am confident we can.”
He also wondered whether the two nations could “come to an agreement that allows data to flow freely among countries, so that we don’t balkanize the internet, make our companies less competitive and impede economic growth. I am certain there is a way.”
India has a chance to contribute robustly to energy security in the region, Pompeo said, adding: “We want that to happen. Can we work together to provide clean energy to all of Indian people. Can we help your industry?”
Noting that one million Indian youth enter the job market every month, the US Secretary of State said: “There are trillions of dollars in potential American investments sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be put to work in the Indo-Pacific region. The table of prosperity is set.”
“Can India find the new appreciation for the economic freedom that compliments political freedom? I know we can do this together.”
Referring to the trade disputes between the two countries, Pompeo expressed confidence that it can be resolved with Trump being at helm of affairs in the US.
He described his meeting with Jaishankar, which marked the first contact between them, as a “step forward in diplomacy” and promised to take it further.
He said since the elections are over in India, “it is time for each of us to deliver”.
“Let us see with new eyes and embrace each other,” he concluded.