Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump have discussed the contentious issue of the US’ trade deficit with India and increasing their cooperation in war-torn Afghanistan during a telephonic conversation.
During the conversation on Monday evening, the two leaders exchanged new year greetings and expressed satisfaction at the continued growth of the India-US strategic partnership in 2018.
“The leaders agreed to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership in 2019 and exchanged perspectives on how to reduce the US trade deficit with India,” the White House said in a readout of the call.
According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the US’ goods and services trade with India totalled an estimated USD 126.2 billion in 2017. Exports were USD 49.4 billion; imports were USD 76.7 billion. The US goods and services trade deficit with India was USD 27.3 billion in 2017.
They also agreed to expand security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and increase cooperation in Afghanistan, according to the White House.
Trump last week took a jibe at Modi for funding a “library” in Afghanistan, saying it is of no use in the war-torn country as he criticised India and others for not doing enough for the nation’s security.
India has been actively involved in the reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Afghanistan. It has committed about USD 3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The two leaders also appreciated developments such as the launch of the new 2+2 dialogue mechanism and the first ever trilateral summit of India, US and Japan, a statement from the prime minister’s office in New Delhi said.
The two nations held the first edition of the 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi in September.
They also took positive note of the growing bilateral cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism and energy, besides the co-ordination on regional and global issues, it said.
This was the first phone call between the two leaders after the tri-lateral summit meeting they had with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Buenos Aires in November on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Argentina.
Prime Minister Modi also held a telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss key bilateral and international issues. During the conversation, they resolved to step up cooperation in dealing with terrorism