On November 9, when Donald Trump was elected as the next US President, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him over phone by saying he is looking forward to working with him closely to take the bilateral ties to a “new height’. And President-elect Trump has sent a sealed cover letter exclusively to be handed over to Prime Minister Modi though the visiting US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter.
Highly placed sources in the government said that Carter, who went and met Prime Minister Modi for a brief meeting on Thursday evening, handed over the secret letter from the president-elect. The government has kept Carter’s meeting with Modi under wraps. A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office could confirm only that “Yes, Mr. Carter has sought an appointment with the prime minister,” without disclosing the timing of meeting.
The Ministry of Defence, which coordinates the visit of the defence secretary, was not given the complete schedule of Carter’s visit. Only Carter’s interaction with his counterpart Manohar Parrikar was mentioned in the schedule given by the protocol division of the defence. The defence ministry was also not giving much importance to outgoing Carter’s bilateral talks with Parrikar, as Trump has already named Carter’s successor — retired Marine Corps general, James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
However, later in the evening, the defence ministry issued a joint statement about the bilateral talks that took place between Carter and Parrikar, by saying that the leaders had finalised the “major defence partner” status to India that enables fast-track cooperation and sharing of high-end American defence technology. The US has been the main defence supplier for India after overtaking Russia with $10 billion defence contracts.
Emphasising importance that the US puts on its relations with India, Carter said that this was the seventh meeting that he was having with Parrikar. “He is the Defence Minister with whom I have met for the maximum number of times.”