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India White House: US VP Pence and PM Modi to...

White House: US VP Pence and PM Modi to discuss bilateral, defence cooperation in Singapore next week

Modi and Pence are scheduled to meet during the ASEAN and East Asia Summit in Singapore next week

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Washington: 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 a 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.

“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.

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