NEW DELHI – The United States on Wednesday announced postponement of a high-level dialogue with India scheduled for next week in Washington, D.C., without assigning any reasons even as its ambassador to the United Nations met with top Indian leaders in New Delhi to step up ties in various fields.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and expressed regret over the dialogue postponement for "unavoidable reasons," said India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar in a tweet. No new dates were announced for the meeting.
Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were to hold talks with their American counterparts Mike Pompeo and James Mattis next week on economic, trade and defense issues.
The announcement came at a time of heightened trade tensions between the two countries.
India last week announced a plan to raise tariffs on 29 U.S. imports in retaliation for the U.S. decision to include India in its list of countries covered by higher steel and aluminium duties.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday she saw opportunities in developing stronger ties with India in multiple ways, especially in fighting terrorism and military cooperation.
Haley said her two-day visit to India is aimed at solidifying the partnership between the two countries. She met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Swaraj on Wednesday.
Haley, the South Carolina-born daughter of Indian immigrants, told reporters in New Delhi that both countries have a willingness to strengthen their partnership.
"We see those opportunities between the United States and India in a multiple level of ways. Whether it's countering terrorism ... whether it's the fact that we're going to start to work together more strongly on the military aspect. There is a lot of things that India and the U.S. have in common," she said.
U.S.-India relations have generally prospered in the past decade, in part because of their shared concerns about the rise of China. Both share goals of security, free navigation, free trade and fighting militants in the Indo-Pacific region.
To improve India's military capabilities, the United States has offered to sell it unarmed Guardian surveillance drones, aircraft carrier technologies and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft.
Haley and Modi on Wednesday discussed ways to enhance India-U.S. cooperation, including on counterterrorism, said a statement by Modi's office.
The statement did not say whether Haley raised the issue of India cutting its dependence on Iranian oil following the U.S. decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
The Trump administration is pushing countries to completely eliminate oil imports from Iran by Nov. 4. India and South Korea, both close U.S. allies, are among the largest importers of Iranian crude oil.
Following Washington's withdrawal from the Iran deal, India said it would comply with the United Nations sanctions and not any country-specific sanctions.
Earlier in the day, Haley visited the majestic tomb of Mughal emperor Humayun and Save Childhood Movement, a center for rescued children run by 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi. She ends her visit to India on Thursday.