indica News Bureau-
Finalizing the dates and venues for US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, a senior Trump administration official, while briefing journalists in Delhi said that the focus of the visit will be on Indo-US engagements and on decisions made during the 2+2 meeting between Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper with Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, last month.
Without confirming the dates of the likely visit of the US President, the official said to the media on Friday, “This is going to be an important year for India-U.S. relations. Especially in the first half of the year, we expect to put into practice many of the decisions taken during the 2+2 talks”, reported The Hindu.
The journal had reported earlier this week that officials are discussing a possible visit next month, around February 24, and the American security and administration officials are undertaking a series of reconnaissance visits over the next week, however the dates have not been confirmed officially.
One of the major objectives of the 2+2 talks between the foreign and defense ministers was furthering cooperation on a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, said the official.
During the talks in Washington, both countries had agreed to “promote practical cooperation in infrastructure development, cyber security, counter-terrorism and regional connectivity”, the official said.
The US has launched a “Blue Dot Network” which has already taken Japan and Australia on board to encourage private investment in infrastructure projects. The network is “ratings mechanism” that would grade infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region on different parameters to ensure transparency and is planned as direct counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. However, unlike the BRI, the BDN would not offer public funds or loans for the project. The official said he hoped India, would join the U.S.-led BDN, as it has refused to join China’s BRI.
“India has as much a role as it wants on the Blue Dot Network (BDN) initiative. It is as open as a Michelin standard for restaurants. We are hoping to build support for this initiative to grade infrastructure projects on debt, environmental standards, labour standards, etc. These would apply to projects in any citizen-centric country where citizens would like to evaluate these projects,” he added.
The U.S. has also aligned its concept of the “Indo-Pacific geography” with India, and has included the Indian Ocean, West of India to Africa, from “California to Kilimanjaro”, the official said.
As President Trump’s visit is schedued at a time when tension between Iran and US are growing and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addressed the Raisina Dialogue where Mr. Zarif had said Iran was no longer interested in “negotiating with the United States”, commenting on India’s concerns about the impact of the U.S. threat of more sanctions on Iran and on plans to develop the Chabahar port, the official said Washington understood the concerns and suggested that India could play a role in convincing Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal.