NEW YORK – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a "new kind of leader for the world's most populous democracy" and quoted Modi's election slogan in Hindi, "Modi hai to mumkin hai" ("Modi makes it possible"), at a summit here.
Pompeo made the remarks during his keynote address to the India Ideas Summit of the U.S.-India Business Council in Washington June 12.
The Secretary of State is scheduled to visit New Delhi later this month as the two countries get ready for a meeting between Modi and President Donald Trump during the G-20 Summit on June 28 and 29 in Osaka, Japan.
"I'm looking forward to exploring what's possible between our two peoples," he has said, having described India as "an important part of President Trump's strategy in the Indo-Pacific."
Preaching the gospel of free enterprise and free trade, Pompeo has called for deepening cooperation between the two nations through a relationship of "true equals, not of domination" that recognizes "unique strategic challenges."
"We must embrace that strategic framework that works for both of our nations. Our two nations have an incredibly unique opportunity to move forward together, for the good of both of our peoples, the Indo-Pacific region, and indeed the entire world," he added.
Outlining Trump's economic agenda for India, Pompeo said: "We also have to make sure that we have economic openness. We have to have a central theme being the idea that we have liberty and sovereignty in each of our two nations, and build on those ideas.”
"These need to be places in which economic growth reinforces our democratic values, and not dictatorship. It needs to be a place where our partnership is one of true equals, not of domination,” he added. "Based on my conversations in New Delhi last year, and in subsequent phone calls and meetings, I believe this is a deeply shared vision.”
Pompeo also glossed over differences between the two countries, past and present, with his emphasis on equality and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region where both nations share strategic concerns.
"I'm sure we'll broach some tough topics too," he said. "But as we democracies have come to know, that we work out our disagreements. We bring them to the table honestly and fairly. And we'll probably discuss the recent decision on the GSP program."
The General Scheme of Preferences, which gave some Indian exports preferential treatment, was ended last month by Trump, who accused it of failing to provide "equitable and reasonable access" for the U.S. to its markets.
It is one of many trade, tariff and defense issues where the two countries are at loggerheads and Pompeo offered alternatives for India that would also benefit the U.S.
Trump has criticized India several times over import duties on Harley Davidson motorcycles, which are a favorite of a section of his base, and whiskey, a product of Kentucky state that was one of his electoral bastions.
India has also criticized the U.S. tightening restrictions on H-1B professional visas that affects technology workers from India and moves to strip the spouses of the visa-holders of work permits.
Last month, the U.S. cancelled the exemption from sanctions it gave India for continuing to buy Iranian oil and Pompeo suggested solutions: "On energy, we want to complete the Westinghouse civil nuclear project, and deliver more LNG (liquid natural gas) and crude.”
He said that the NASA was working with the Indian Space Research Organization on "the world's most advanced earth-observation satellite" and India's second lunar mission and asked, "How cool is that?"
"Indian Americans, too, have contributed mightily to things that happened here in the U.S.," Pompeo said. "We've watched Indians reach the heights of industry, academia and government. People like Microsoft's CEO (Satya Nadella), and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) chairman Ajit Pai, a great Kansan, have done remarkable things all around the world."
Pompeo, however, did not mention Google CEO Sundar Pichai, whose company Trump has accused of partisanship.
Before the session with Pompeo, USIBC president Nisha Biswal presented the organization's Global Leadership award to Pichai.
Pichai, as well as Nasdaq president Adena Friedman were chosen in recognition of the two companies' contribution as the leading technology-driven platforms.
Given annually since 2007, the USIBC Global Leadership Awards recognize top corporate executives from the United States and India whose companies play a major role in catalyzing growth in the U.S.-India commercial corridor, the council said.
"Growing up in India, I saw the profound impact technology has on improving people's lives, and I am proud that Google has been able to contribute to India's exciting growth story," Pichai said in a statement.
Under the leadership of Pichai, Google is not only powering India's digital economy sector, but also expanding access to technology for millions of Indian citizens, including women and people from the marginalized communities, Biswal said.