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CAA didn't figure in Trump-Modi talks; religious harmony discussed in positive way: Foreign Secretary

The new citizenship law did not come up for discussion between visiting US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday, noting that the two leaders talked about religious harmony in a "positive way".

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New Delhi Published on: February 25, 2020 21:57 IST
CAA didn't figure in Trump-Modi talks; religious harmony discussed in positive way: Foreign Secretar
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CAA didn't figure in Trump-Modi talks; religious harmony discussed in positive way: Foreign Secretary 

The new citizenship law did not come up for discussion between visiting US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday, noting that the two leaders talked about religious harmony in a "positive way". He said that India and the US held talks in five major categories - security and defence; energy; technology and trade; people-to-people contacts; and global and regional issues, with Trump assuring India highest consideration for collaboration in defence sector.

Shringla said Modi and Trump also decided to move towards what was referred to as a "big deal" in the trade sector.

He said the two leaders have decided to conclude the ongoing discussions on bilateral trade as soon as possible and give it legal framework and the text for it can be finalised with legal vetting.

"The two leaders also decided to move towards what was referred to as big deal in the trade sector," he said.

In response to a question on whether the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act that has led to violent protests across the country and the National Register of Citizens were discussed, Shringla said the new citizenship law did not come up in the talks.

"The issue of CAA did not come up, but with regard to what you mentioned, the term religious freedom, there was appreciation from both sides that pluralism and diversity are a common binding factor of both the countries," he said.

"You would have heard President Trump in his speech yesterday in Ahmedabad referred to religious diversity and harmony that is evident in India and discussions really to the extent possible were on these lines on this issue," Shringla told reporters.

Replying to a question he said, "Religious harmony was discussed in a positive way" between the two leaders and added that discussion on Jammu and Kashmir centred on positive developments in the region.

"Things were moving in the right direction," he said on the discussion on J&K during Indo-US talks.

In response to another question, Shringla said that Pakistan figured in the discussion between the two leaders and India's "concerns were put on the table" on cross-border terrorism.

He said the two countries have also decided to set up working groups on curbing narcotics trafficking and reinvigorating homeland security dialogue.

"President Trump has assured highest consideration to India for procurement, technology and joint collaboration in defence sector," he said.

Trump and Modi held talks for five hours to arrive at a slew of agreements, Shringla said.

He said that energy has emerged as one of most important areas of bilateral cooperation and India is expected to source USD 9 billion from US in 2020.

"Indian side raised issue of H1 B visa and highlighted contribution of Indian professionals in high-tech sector," he said.

On trade, Shringla said there has been "very useful" and comprehensive discussions.

"There was appreciation that trade has increased year-on-year steadily over the last few years. The US exports to India has increased fairly dramatically and there was noticeable adverse trade imbalance decline from USD 30 billion a few years ago to USD 25 billion," he said.

He said adverse trade imbalance is also gradually eroding with greater amount of acquisitions we are making in areas of oil and gas and purchase of commercial aircraft.

"The US is India's largest trading partner and it accounts for 12 per cent of our total export and India is emerging as a very large market for the US too," Shringla said.

"There are complementarities in this because there are a lot of areas in which we require goods and technologies which we don't have from the US and vice versa and the is mutuality of benefits in these complementarities. These are the areas we want to focus on when we start discussions on a large trade agreement," he added.

Asked if the grand welcome accorded to Trump was an endorsement of him for a second term in the upcoming US presidential polls, Shringla said, "The India-US partnership is always based on bipartisan support and will continue to be based on that. When we invite the president of the US, it is the president of the US. We have had president Obama here, we have had president Clinton here, we have Bush here. They have represented the different parties they were elected from."

"So, I don't think we make a distinction whether president is from X party or Y party. As far as we are concerned, he represents the people of the US, he represents the will of the people of the US and he represents for us the means of improving and enhancing the relationship with the US," he said.

Asked about Afghanistan, the foreign secretary said the Indian side certainly took note of the fact that there should be an agreement if all goes well over the next five days between the US and the Taliban.

"We are taking note of some of the aspects of the agreement. We would be watching the developments there very carefully. India and the US have a shared interest in a united, democratic, sovereign, stable prosperous Afghanistan," he said.

"We support a peace process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-driven and Afghan-owned and that the peace process results in sustainable peace," he said. 

Also Read: Donald Trump on Kashmir: If needed, we will mediate between India and Pakistan

Also Read: Donald Trump on anti-CAA violence: 'Heard about individual attacks but didn't discuss, it is up to India'

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