Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington in the last week of June, with terrorism emanating from Pakistan dominating the agenda, sources said on Sunday.
In his first meeting with Trump after the developer-turned-politician took over as the President in January, Modi is also expected to discuss India’s entry into the nuclear suppliers group, changes in the H-1B visa regime, defence ties between the two sides and China’s increasingly aggressive stance in east and south Asia.
While top Indian officials are tight-lipped about the dates of the visit, US government sources indicated Modi would be in Washington from June 26 to June 28. The two leaders could meet again in Hanover, Germany on the sidelines of the July 7-8 G-20 meeting.
Discussions on the agenda of the Modi-Trump meeting had begun with Indian ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna extending his New Delhi visit beyond the heads of mission meeting on May 7, sources in the ministry of external affairs said.
Indication that terrorism will top the agenda came during the meetings US national security adviser HR McMaster, who was in Delhi recently, had with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar and intelligence chiefs on April 17.
Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, too, was keen on exchange of evidence about terror groups during his India visit the same month. McCabe was then the deputy to James B Comey, who was fired by Trump on May 9.
Both McMaster and McCabe heard the Indian side on terror emanating from Af-Pak region and the growing influence of Islamic State Wilayat Khorasan module in Nangarhar in Afghanistan.
There are reports that a group of Indians, including women and children, from north Kerala has escaped to the remote eastern Afghanistan. The war-torn province made headlines last month when the US military dropped GBU-43 bomb, the country’s largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat.
It is too early to predict the outcome of Modi-Trump meetings but there could be a definite movement in the extradition of 26/11 Mumbai attack accused Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-born Chicago businessman who helped Lashkar-e-Taiba’s David Coleman Headley with his travels as he scouted sites in India for the terror strikes at the behest of his handlers in the Pakistan’s powerful spy agency the ISI.
There were indications that the US department of justice has processed India’s extradition request and forwarded it to the state department, source said.
There was also a possibility of the FBI signing a memorandum of understanding with India’s anti-terror agency the National Investigation Agency for sharing evidence in case of terror attacks.
The US agencies are keen to exchange data on Islamic State with India, particularly in context of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s role in it.
Recently, the Trump administration blamed Pakistan for deteriorating relations with India and warned that terror groups based in the neighbouring country were planning to hit India and Afghanistan.
“Pakistani-based terrorist groups will present a sustained threat to the US interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan,” US national intelligence director Daniel Coats told the Senate intelligence panel.
Modi and Trump were expected to work towards strengthening defence ties, with New Delhi set to clear the new strategic partners’ policy in the coming week, source said.
Under the plan, Indian defence majors will tie up with US firms to manufacture naval helicopters, submarines, armoured vehicles and single-engine fighters under the Modi government’s ambitious “Make in India” initiative. India is also interested in high-altitude long-endurance Predator drones.