President Donald Trump called on India to withdraw an "unacceptable" increase in tariffs on U.S. goods, ratcheting up tension against the Asian nation before a planned meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"India, for years having put very high Tariffs against the United States, just recently increased the Tariffs even further," US President Trump said in a Twitter post, his first direct response to India's move earlier this month to raise tariffs on a slew of products from walnuts to pulses.
I look forward to speaking with Prime Minister Modi about the fact that India, for years having put very high Tariffs against the United States, just recently increased the Tariffs even further. This is unacceptable and the Tariffs must be withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019
The tariffs on almost 30 American products came in response to higher duties imposed by the U.S. and US President Trump's move June 1 to end trade concessions on $6.3 billion of Indian goods. PM Modi's administration repeatedly deferred the move, originally announced in June last year, as it sought to relieve trade tensions through talks.
The trade dispute is among several hampering closer U.S.-India cooperation just as US President Trump's administration also seeks PM Modi's help in countering China in the region. The two countries have also sparred over India's desire to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system and purchase of oil from Iran, moves that would run counter to U.S. sanctions.
"Now you know why India recently imposed retaliatory tariffs that had been put off for a year," said Tanvi Madan, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think-tank who researches U.S.-India relations. "Makes for a useful card in negotiations. Now India can use their withdrawal (as DJT wants) as a 'give'/concession."
US President Trump is also due to hold a trilateral meeting with PM Modi and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, part of U.S. efforts to bring together countries wary of China's increasing economic and military might. Still, efforts at formal collaboration have largely stalled.
On a visit to New Delhi on Wednesday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stressed the strength of the U.S.-India relationship and called for them to embark on a "new age of ambition." They needed to overcome a "nagging misconception that our countries are not able to be full partners," he said, referring to India's Cold War alliance with the Soviet Union.
Yet US Secretary Pompeo also included a list of demands, including the pressure to cut oil imports from Iran and Venezuela, to steer away from Huawei Technologies Co. in 5G networks, and to cut links with North Korea's economy. He acknowledged that India's decision to cut oil purchases came at a cost, adding that the U.S. is doing "everything we can'' to ensure adequate fuel imports for India.
India's External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said a key part of having a strategic relationship "is to comprehend the other nation's interest."
"Harmonizing our interests and our views, that's really the task of diplomacy," he said alongside US Secretary Pompeo. "I think Secretary Pompeo would agree with me today that we have earned our pay."