Sushma receives Pompeo despite unease over his Pak tour

Sushma receives Pompeo despite unease over his Pak tour

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) shakes hands with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj after arriving at Air Force Station Palam in New Delhi on September 5, 2018. - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and their Indian counterparts are meeting in New Delhi on September 6, where they will discuss a number of issues on trade and defense. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH / AFP)

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a special gesture on Wednesday when she drove to the airport to welcome US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he arrived in New Delhi after a brief visit to Islamabad.

Notwithstanding unease in New Delhi over Pompeo's decision to visit Pakistan before travelling to India, External Affairs Minister made the special gesture and received US Secretary of State at the tarmac of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the national capital late in the evening on Wednesday. Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, too drove to the airport and received her US counterpart James Mattis, who arrived earlier on the day.

Swaraj and Sitharaman will have separate bilateral meetings with Pompeo and Mattis respectively, before the four holds the first India-US “2+2 dialogue” at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday.

Pompeo had a brief visit to Islamabad on Wednesday. He called on new Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and met the chief of Pakistan Army, Gen Qamar J Bajwa, in addition to holding parleys with his counterpart Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He flew to New Delhi in the evening.

Sources in New Delhi said that Swaraj would seek to know Pompeo's views on the new Government in Pakistan when they would meet on Thursday. She would also reiterate to US Secretary of State that New Delhi would expect Washington to step up pressure on Islamabad and make it stop exporting terrorism to India.

The US State Department issued a statement soon after Pompeo flew to New Delhi from Islamabad. It stated that US Secretary of State emphasized in all his meetings in Islamabad the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a “negotiated peace” in Afghanistan. It also quoted Pompeo telling Khan, Qureshi and Gen Bajwa that Pakistan should take “sustained and decisive” measures against “terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability”.

The statement issued by US Department of State, however, did not specifically refer to New Delhi's concern over anti-India terrorism emanating from territories under control of Pakistan.

Mattis, however, did not join Pompeo on the visit to Islamabad. He landed in New Delhi earlier on the day.

Pompeo is the second US Secretary of State in the past 13 years to visit Pakistan just before travelling to India. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, had a stopover in Islamabad before flying to New Delhi in January 2015.

John Kerry, who served as Secretary of State when Barrack Obama was the US President, once visited India and Pakistan together – in January 2015. He, however, visited New Delhi before flying to Islamabad. Kerry's predecessor Hillary Clinton never clubbed visits to India and Pakistan together. Condoleezza Rice, who was Secretary of State in George Bush's administration, visited India and Pakistan together in 2005 and 2006, but she too made it a point to travel to New Delhi before flying to Islamabad.

New Delhi in the past conveyed to Washington D.C. that it did not like senior US officials combining visits to India and Pakistan, as such visits sent out wrong messages and fueled speculation about American Government's reviving its long-discarded policy of putting its relations with the two South Asian nations in the same bracket.

Pompeo's decision to visit Pakistan before travelling to India caused unease in New Delhi. Swaraj, however, drove to the airport to receive American Secretary of State – ostensibly to make it sure that the unease does not cast a shadow on the Indo-US “2+2 dialogue”.

Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said that External Affairs Minister's special gesture of receiving US Secretary of State at the airport symbolized the “warm and friendly relations” between India and America.

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