Pompeo meets Indian leader amid trade tensions

India imposed tariffs on US products on June 16 in retaliation for the US ending India's special trade status.

    Pompeo's visit is the first high-level engagement between the two countries since Modi's re-election last month [Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters]
    Pompeo's visit is the first high-level engagement between the two countries since Modi's re-election last month [Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters]

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began official meetings in India's capital on Wednesday amid growing tensions over trade and tariffs that have strained the partners' ties.

    India imposed tariffs on 28 US products, including apples and almonds, on June 16 in retaliation for the US ending India's preferential trade status on June 1 and imposing higher duties on products including aluminium and steel.

    Pompeo met India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday morning. He is later scheduled to meet his counterpart S Jaishankar.

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    "Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership, Secretary Pompeo called on PM Narendra Modi to exchange views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship," spokesman for the ministry of external affairs Raveesh Kumar, said in a Twitter post.

    Pompeo arrived in New Delhi late on Tuesday after visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan on a trip aimed at building a global coalition to counter Iran.

    His visit is the first high-level engagement between the two countries since Modi's reelection last month.

    The countries call each other strategic partners despite retaliatory tariffs imposed on some of each other's goods this month.

    The visit also comes before the scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and Modi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Japan later this week.

    Russia's S-400

    The two countries' officials are also likely to discuss India's plans to buy Russia's S-400 air defence system.

    The US has expressed reservations about the deal even as it has become India's top defence supplier in the past two years. India's trade with the US has also seen steady growth to $150bn annually.

    Indian officials say they have a few differences with the US over political and strategic issues including on Iran, but they have cautioned the two countries need to be careful on trade and commerce.

    Before Pompeo's arrival in India, hundreds of supporters of left-wing groups marched in central New Delhi to protest against his visit and denounce American policies in the Middle East.

    The protesters held banners reading "No war on Iran" and chanted slogans such as "Hands off Iran, hands off!" and "Warmongering America, down down."

    They urged the Indian government not to cut off imports of oil from Iran, as the US has demanded.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies