Hagel briefs Modi on Iraq hours before air strike

Hagel briefs Modi on Iraq hours before air strike

Hagel briefs Modi on Iraq hours before air strike

Hours before his country began air strike in Iraq, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about US President Barack Obama’s plan to deal with the volatile situation in Iraq.

Modi conveyed his concerns to a group of about 40 Indian construction workers believed to have been held captive by the ISIS militants in the conflict zone, bombed by the US fighter jets in order to destroy the ISIS artillery guns.

“The prime minister expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Iraq and its potential implications for the region, where India has vital stakes. Secretary Hagel briefed the prime minister on the announcements by Obama on the steps that the United States plans to take to deal with the situation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. Iraq is India’s second largest supplier of oil.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby, too, confirmed that the Iraq situation was discussed between the two leaders. In addition, Modi and Hagel spoke on Afghanistan and rise of terrorism in the Middle East.

On the Afghanistan situation, Modi told Hagel that early completion of the election process in Afghanistan and smooth transition of power are essential for sustaining progress towards peace, stability, democracy and development in the region.

“Security issues in the areas comprising Indian and Pacific oceans too were discussed,” said Kirby, dropping hints that China figured in the talks.

Beginning with Modi, Hagel held a series of meetings with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Accepting the US invite, Jaitley agreed to visit the Pentagon in October, 2014.

The two sides discussed increased cooperation in defence trade and technology and agreed to take forward the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), which was institutionalised in 2012. Two contact persons were nominated from both sides for enhancing cooperation, including co-development and co-production of defence products.

“The development of our indigenous capabilities is a major objective that guides our present policies. We have taken steps to raise the foreign direct investment cap in the defence sector and look forward to working closely with the US in this regard,” Jaitley said.