Pompeo meets Indian leaders amid trade tensions, Iran crisis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar take part in a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2019

Pompeo meets Indian leaders amid trade tensions, Iran crisis

  • US secretary of state describes Tehran as the world’s ‘biggest sponsor of terror’
  • Ties have also been damaged by the US threat of sanctions on India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile

NEW DELHI: In a day-long meeting with the Indian leadership in New Delhi, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday held talks on various issues that had weakened bilateral relations in recent years.

This is Pompeo’s third visit to India, but the first since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in this year’s general elections.

The visit comes as the US and India are enduring a difficult period in their relationship, with both nations engaged in a bitter dispute over trade tariffs.

Relations have been damaged further by the US threat of sanctions on India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile. US sanctions on Iran and creeping instability in the Gulf have added to India’s concerns.

“Our discussion covered trade, energy and defense issues alongside investment concerns,” Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, said in a joint press conference with Pompeo.

“We’re guided by big pictures, and my urging was that we take pragmatic and constructive views on trade-related issues. The real test would be our intention to address that effectively,” Jaishankar added.

“The Indian government is keen to provide a level playing field to American business, to grow with the world economy and provide the right balance,” he said.

“It’s natural for the two countries to have differences over trade, and we’ll mutually try to address them effectively.”

Pompeo said: “We’re friends. We’ll work together. We can try and find a path together.”

New Delhi imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US items earlier this month after the Trump administration ended trade concessions for India on June 1.

On energy issues, Jaishankar said: “We had an open and frank discussion on energy, and we expressed our concerns. I underlined the importance of stability, predictability and affordability in terms of India’s energy imports.”

He told reporters that both countries discussed the situation in the Gulf, and that Pompeo knows India has “big stakes there: Energy, diaspora, business and regional stability.”

On foreign policy issues, Pompeo described Iran as the world’s “biggest sponsor of terror.”

Both leaders refused to answer specific questions on possible exemptions to New Delhi on the purchase of oil from Iran, which is facing US sanctions.

On the question of US opposition to the $5 billion deal for air defense systems between India and Russia, Jaishankar said: “We have relationships with several countries, many of which are significant. They have a history. We’ll do what’s in our national interest.”

He added: “We had a discussion on defense cooperation. It’s important to display trust and confidence in each other if we want this to grow.”

Both countries discussed China’s growing presence in the Indo-Pacific region. “Our partnership in the Indo-Pacific is for a purpose, not against somebody, and that purpose is peace, security, stability, prosperity and rules,” said Jaishankar.

“We’re looking for a landscape where a number of independent players can work together for global good.”

Pompeo said: “The US-India relationship is already reaching a height, particularly in defense cooperation, a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and growing cooperation in energy.”

Before holding talks with Jaishankar, Pompeo met Modi and congratulated him on his electoral victory.

Harsh V. Pant of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation told Arab News: “Pomeo’s visit is very significant and sets the tone for the future US-India relationship. It comes at a time when the relationship is passing through some difficulty.”

Pant said: “One visit can’t solve the trade problem. It’s a structural problem in many ways. Trade has always been a frustrating issue for the relationship, but it’s a very small part in the larger strategic ties between the two nations.”

He added: “The convergence between US and India is based on the larger structural reality of the regional and global balance of power. So long as both countries are mindful of that, I think the relationship can grow.”

Pant said: “Where India will have to rethink is on the issue of transnationalism. It isn’t enough for India to say its rise is good for America therefore America should help India. The US is changing, and you’ll have to respond to the changing America.”

Facing Olympic hotel shortage, Tokyo looks offshore

Updated 2 min 37 sec ago

Facing Olympic hotel shortage, Tokyo looks offshore

  • Tokyo could be short as many as 14,000 rooms given an expected surge of Olympics-related tourism
  • Japan’s largest travel agency JTB has chartered the 1,011-cabin Sun Princess for the Olympic period

YOKOHAMA, Japan: Tokyo is facing a shortage of accommodation when Olympic fans pour into the Japanese capital for next year’s Games so officials are looking offshore — to moored cruise ships operating as floating hotels.
Despite a construction boom, Tokyo could be short as many as 14,000 rooms given an expected surge of Olympics-related tourism, according to researchers.
Local officials think one solution could be to put people up in giant ships temporarily docked off Tokyo and nearby Yokohama during the Games.
Among those on board with the idea is Japan’s largest travel agency JTB, which has chartered the 1,011-cabin Sun Princess for the Olympic period, complete with everything from jacuzzis to a theater.
The agency is offering packages that combine rooms with Olympic event tickets, but they don’t come cheap.
Two nights in a room with a balcony combined with tickets to an Olympic football match will run 200,000 yen ($1,850), while two nights in a 50-square-meter suite combined with baseball tickets will go for 724,000 yen ($6,700).
The agency said it was confident about demand, partly because “we will have a shortage of hotels of a certain standard,” said Minoru Kuge, head of JTB’s Tokyo2020 Project Office.
“Although we can’t disclose the actual numbers, we have received an excellent reaction from our customers,” he told AFP on a tour of the luxury ship.
And Kuge said he expected the package to have a special draw — “a sense of unity” among customers who will all be cheering on Olympic athletes.
Elsewhere, plans have been negotiated for the 928-cabin Explorer Dream ship to dock in Kawasaki, in western Tokyo bay.
And both Tokyo’s local government and officials in Chiba prefecture, east of the capital, are looking into additional cruise ship possibilities.
Japan’s hotel business law bans rooms without a window, but the health ministry last year issued an ordinance that allows ships with windowless cabins to be used as hotels during major events.
But experts warn that a few cruise ships may not be enough.
“It is unclear if hotels ships in the Tokyo Bay will be able to cover hotel rooms shortage,” warned a report on the issue published in October by Mizuho Research Institute.
Even the number of tourists the capital can expect remains unclear because the increase in Olympic visitors may be balanced out by other tourists opting to stay away until the Games are done.
Regardless, Tokyo officials see the ships as a novel accommodation solution, and are also planning to open a new cruise ship terminal days before the Games began.
Officials and industry experts hope using docked ships for extra hotel space will become common in the country, as a way to cater to visitors during special events, or even help people displaced during disasters.
“If a provincial city wants to host an international convention or other big events but doesn’t have enough accommodation, hotel ships can be a solution,” said Yoshimi Tajima, JTB’s senior official at the corporate business department.