Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar held extensive talks with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday evening, hours after the latter and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in this country in the first leg of a five-day Asia trip aimed at bolstering strategic ties amid increasing Chinese influence in the region.
"Pleased to welcome @SecPompeo. Taking our Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership forward," Jaishankar tweeted moments before the one-to-one meeting with his US counterpart at the iconic Hyderabad House in the heart of the national capital.
On Tuesday, Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh will hold a joint summit -- the third edition of 2 + 2 Ministerial Dialogue -- with Pompeo and Esper. Later that day, both the visiting American leaders will call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to an itinerary released by the Indian External Affairs Ministry.
At the summit, India and the US are likely to ink the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA). “The two (Defense) Ministers have expressed satisfaction that an agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” the Defense Ministry has said in a statement.
Quoting unnamed sources privy to the development, a media report said that under the pact, India will gain access to precision data and topographical images on a real-time basis from the US military satellites. A maritime information agreement is also under discussion between the two countries, another report said.
The visit of the two top President Donald Trump's emissaries comes a week before the American presidential election slated for November 3.
Before boarding the flight to India, Pompeo had tweeted: "Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations."
Last week, the US said it was keeping a close watch on the India-China standoff in Ladakh, and expressed its desire in de-escalating the situation along the Line of Actual Control -- an ill-defined, 3,440km-long disputed border.
Both the countries are competing to build infrastructure along the border, which is also known as the Line of Actual Control. The main trigger for the June border clash between India and China was the former's construction of a new road to a high-altitude air base. The clash had left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.