QUESTION: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you for speaking to India Today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on.
QUESTION: Before you came to India, our two countries were literally throwing punches at each other on the trade front, on purchases of oil from Iran, on arms purchases from Russia, and other issues. You met Prime Minister Modi today, you met Foreign Minister Jaishankar, as well as the national security advisor, Ajit Doval. What are the big takeaways from this – these meetings, and where would you say that India-U.S. relations stands up to this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’m not sure I’d agree with you about the punch-throwing. (Laughter.) Look, these are serious matters.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Things that friends and partners have to work through. But when I stare at the opportunity between our two countries – you had a prime minister who got more votes than anybody in the history of the world, and we share a value set, a democratic value set with the United States of America. And your people, your people engage with Americans at every level, all across the world – in the United States, in India, and other places too.
What we spent a lot of time talking about today was how we can truly make this a different age, a different time. We can be more ambitious in our relationship. And so these issues – the trade issues, military issues, defense cooperation issues – we can make those positives. I’m confident that we can, and I know President Trump is committed to that as well.
QUESTION: And if there’s a big takeaway, what would that be?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’d be that there’s a real commitment. I had not met my counterpart before, so it was great to get a chance. I’d spoken to him on the phone. Many, many Americans know him from his time as the ambassador to the United States, so there’s already a deep understanding of his vision for how our two countries can work together. And then when I had a chance to be with the prime minister – he’s going to see the President here in just a couple days in Osaka; they’ll get to build on what we talked about today. But in every interaction I had with Indian leadership, there was a deep understanding that for the sake of our two peoples, but for the region and the world as well, America and India need to be good, solid, reliable partners for each other. We benefit in the United States from India, and we know too that you benefit from a relationship with us.
QUESTION: Back on the trade front, India feels that the U.S. has been unnecessarily hard on it, and especially by withdrawing the GSP recently. Given the fact that India’s trade deficit with the U.S. is around $24 billion compared to China, which is like $400 billion, something like 20 times more, why did you all decide to come down on India by withdrawing the GSP? And what does India need to do to have it restored?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re going to go work to fix it. We’re going to go work to restore these relationships. I’m very confident we can. Look, I know the GSP is a big deal to India. It matters an awful lot. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that trade and trade deficit matter an awful lot to President Trump. I’m confident that when two countries of goodwill work together that we can work our way through this. Make no mistake: Neither country will get everything they want when that deal is put together, when it’s ultimately resolved. Each country will have to give things up, make tradeoffs.
But that’s what friends do. They develop relationships, they work together, and then when we’ve solved that, when we’ve solved that moment, we’ll be better off. I’m reminded constantly that there are countries we don’t have trade friction with; we just don’t trade with them. We have an enormous economic relationship between our two countries. It is absolutely inevitable that countries that have a relationship as deep, as strong, as economically connected to ours will from time to time find places where they just can’t quite figure it out for the moment. We’ll figure this one out.
QUESTION: But there seems to be a duality of approach. You talk tough on trade, you’re sweet on defense and other issues. Where is this coming from?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, no. I think we’re tough on everything. (Laughter.) I think India’s tough on everything too. It’s not – look, we each have an obligation to do our best to make sure that our countries are well represented. I am confident that Prime Minister Modi and Mr. Jaishankar, they’re going to represent India well. Our trade representatives will represent their country as well.
But I hope the Indian people will come to see that we shouldn’t focus on the differences, these things that cause challenges. We talk about data localization challenges and all these things that are in the news. These are the small – these are the small piece of the relationship between our two countries. They – what I wish reporters would talk about is the enormous connectivity of these two nations and the enormous opportunity that we have – between us, 1.7 billion people, democratic institutions all around. If we focus on those and just work through the challenges – by the way, when we solve those problems, there’ll be another one. You can write it down. It’s the nature of friendship and partnership.
Look, we’ll play each other at cricket, right? It’s going to happen and we’ll have different views. We as – the American people and the Indian people should understand that that’s just the course of a relationship, that you work through them, and when you come out the other side, when you resolve these problems, both peoples are far better off. And when we do that together, this region and the world will be better off too.
QUESTION: I mean, on the positive side, on – particularly on security and terror, America has backed India strongly, particularly with Pakistan if you see the recent designation of Masood Azhar as a UN-designated terrorist as well as on the grey list for Pakistan on the FATF. But Islamabad somehow doesn’t seem to get it. In your discussions with Mr. Doval today, did you talk about prosecuting these various terrorists that afflict India, whether it’s Hafiz Saeed, whether it’s Dawood Ibrahim, or Masood Azhar?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We did. The national security advisor and I spoke at great length about terrorism. We both reaffirmed our commitment. No terrorism anywhere is acceptable. We talked about Iran, right, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and the serious nature – the serious threat that that poses to the world. I think this administration has been very clear to Pakistan, our expectation. They can’t be supporting terror, whether that’s cross-border terror between Afghanistan or Pakistan, or terror that emanates from Pakistan and comes to this country. It’s unacceptable. We’ve changed that relationship. It’s different than it was in the previous administration. We have taken this far more seriously because we recognize the threat it poses certainly to the people of India, and to the people of Afghanistan.
Our opportunity to get a reconciliation there is dependent upon Pakistan not providing sanctuary to terrorists inside of their country. We’ve been unambiguous with them. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am – I always, as a diplomat, always remain hopeful that Pakistan will choose the right course. I think for the Pakistani people it’s the best outcome, and so I’m excited that we’re able to work together with India on counterterrorism, certainly in the region, but we do that more broadly as well. It’s a powerful partnership between our two countries countering terror everywhere we find it.
QUESTION: And did you focus on some of the individuals, the key individuals that I mentioned, Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We talked about Masood Azhar a bit. It was something we worked very, very hard on to get that across the finish line. We’re happy; it was the right outcome. And then we spent time talking about a handful of other individual cases as well, but —
QUESTION: Including Dawood —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to get into the details. I’ll let Security Advisor Doval talk about that if he wants to, but suffice it to say, we know precisely who these bad actors are. We know precisely the threat that they pose to India and to the world, and the United States will be a very capable, committed partner alongside of India to push back against those threats.
QUESTION: You released the U.S. State Department report on religious freedom recently, which criticized India for the rising community-related violence in the country. India has rejected these allegations. Did this come up during your conversations today with any of the Indian leaders? And what do you have to say about it right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so I’ve spoken about religious freedom widely. I gave some remarks just a little bit ago, and had a chance to talk about it too. Look, it – religious freedom is central to democracies. It’s – every human being should have the right to practice their own religion, or not practice religion if that’s what they choose, too. I know it’s at the center of democratic values here in India as well. I’m confident that our two countries will continue to work towards that. America’s not perfect either. We don’t always get it exactly right. We try to be critical of ourselves when we don’t get it exactly right as well. And so we did have a chance to have that conversation today.
QUESTION: And on Iran, I mean, India’s deeply concerned because the sanctions against India if it bought oil from Iran. India’s concerned if there’s a conflict that breaks out between U.S. and Iran, we would be deeply affected. Would there be such a conflict if Iran doesn’t comply? And what are you doing to meet India’s energy needs?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So for India’s energy needs, we’re working diligently to make sure that India is fully supplied with crude oil at a good price, too, right – we know that matters, not just the fact that you have it, but it needs to be affordable energy. America cares about affordable energy for its citizens as well.
As for the challenge with the Islamic Republic of Iran, American’s done everything it can to de-escalate. If there is conflict, if there is war, if there’s a kinetic activity, it will because the Iranians made that choice. I hope that they do not. I don’t think they should ever mistake President Trump for not being prepared to defend American interest all around the world, and I hope that the world will come to defend that waterway that is so central to the Indian economy. You know it; Prime Minister Modi spoke with me about it today. A significant piece of India’s not only energy needs, but even more broadly, come through the Strait of Hormuz, transit in that space. The world needs to join together to ensure that there’s free and open navigation in that waterway. When we do that, when we do that in a serious way, we’ll deter Iranian aggression, and we’ll get Iran to behave like we’ve asked them to. Nothing special, we just want them to behave like a normal country. That’s not too much to ask for them.
QUESTION: And my final question to you is of course the arms purchases with Russia that India has. Would you permit a waiver on the CAATSA because of India’s longstanding relationship?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to get ahead of decisions that we’ll make with respect to that. We have expressed our concern about that weapons system, and how difficult it sometimes makes it for America to participate alongside folks who are employing that weapons system. It’s a very real concern. I know that our Department of Defense and your military will talk about it, work through as many of the technical challenges we can, and what – and how we respond to that is the way that I just described. We’ll respond in the way that partners do. We’re candid, we’re frank, we’re up front about our risks, our concerns, the things we have to do. I know we’ll work through that as well.
QUESTION: And when will President Trump come to India?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope soon, but he – Prime Minister Modi and he will have a chance to meet together. I – Prime Minister Modi I’m sure will invite him here.
QUESTION: All right, thank you so much, Secretary of State.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: It was wonderful speaking to you.