US Vice President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would discuss India-US defence cooperation and bilateral relationship during their meeting in Singapore next week, the White House said Saturday, asserting that “sky is the limit” for New Delhi’s role in the Indo-Pacific region. “They would be talking about the bilateral relationship and a defence cooperation in the kind of larger context. I can’t really say if they’ll get into trade (ties) specifically at this time,” a senior administration official told foreign journalists during a conference call Saturday.
Modi and Pence are scheduled to meet during the ASEAN and East Asia Summit in Singapore next week. Pence leaves on a four-nation Asia trip over the weekend, that would take him to Japan, Australia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea. He will be representing President Donald Trump at the ASEAN and East Asia Summit in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Papua New Guinea.
Responding to a question, the official said the two leaders would be talking about “a common vision” for maintaining what the US refers to a free and open Indo-Pacific as India has talked about the Act East policy and their “enormous convergence” in these two approaches. In some respect, these are different names for common approach and talking about some of those common principles that “we share, seeks to promote and sustain including a freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development for the region; the importance of ASEAN and the role that they play, as well as a major democracy in the region that we have very good relations in common with like Japan,” the senior administration official said.
“Really the role for India (in Indo-Pacific region), the sky’s the limit,”he said, when asked about what role the US sees for India in the region and President Trump’s Indo-Pacific policy.
Noting that India is “such a huge component” of the Indo-Pacific region, the official said, “It is the second largest population, the world’s largest democracy, while the United States is the world’s second largest democracy.” He added that India is not only the dominant feature geographically, but also politically and culturally in the Indian Ocean.
“With this administration there is a significant increase in quality and tempo of interaction from the top leadership on down,” the White House official said. Referring to the recent two plus two dialogue in New Delhi, he said Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a “very, very good” meeting.
“It was amazing to see the amount of progress that’s been made in areas of cooperation as part of our partnership,” said the official, who spoke with foreign reporters on condition of anonymity.