U.S. foreign, defense chiefs to travel to Delhi for high-level talks

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participates in a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will travel to New Delhi in September for high-level talks that were twice postponed this year, the Indian foreign ministry announced on Friday.

Political and military ties between the two countries have expanded in recent years but trade differences have arisen since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

New Delhi, which has sought to counter China’s expanding economic and military weight in the region, has also felt a lack of enthusiasm from Washington for ties that had been touted earlier as a “defining partnership”.

Pompeo and Mattis will hold talks with India Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sept. 6 in what is known as a 2+2 dialogue to drive political and military ties, the foreign ministry said.

The talks were set for this month in Washington but Pompeo had to travel to North Korea, forcing a postponement. They were originally delayed from April while Pompeo went through confirmation hearings following the sacking of Rex Tillerson.

U.S. diplomats said this month Washington valued ties with India and that Pompeo and Mattis were ready to travel to New Delhi in a bid to placate India.

The United States has emerged as a top arms supplier to India as New Delhi modernizes its Soviet-era military, selling more than $15 billion of weapons over the past decade.

The United States has offered India the armed version of drones that were originally authorized for sale as unarmed and for surveillance purposes. If the deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Washington has sold a large armed drone to a country outside the NATO alliance.

“The 2+2 meeting will cover a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues of shared interest, with a view to strengthening strategic and security ties between the two countries,” the ministry said.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Paul Tait