US National Security Advisor Sullivan likely to visit India next week

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New Delhi, Jun 11 (PTI) US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is likely to visit India next week to review overall progress in implementation of the ambitious iCET initiative, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The top Biden administration official will hold wide-ranging talks with NSA Ajit Doval, primarily focusing on cooperation under the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), they said.

If the visit takes place, then it will be the first trip to India by a senior American official after the Modi government came to power for the third term.

Sullivan's visit to India was discussed during a phone call between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week. Biden called up Modi to congratulate him on his re-election for a third term.

"President Joseph R Biden, Jr spoke today with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to congratulate him and the National Democratic Alliance on their historic victory in India's general election," the White House said in a readout following the call.

The US National Security Advisor called off a visit to India for the review of iCET twice this year in view of the US administration's focus on the evolving situation in West Asia arising out of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The people cited above said Sullivan is likely to be in Delhi around June 18.

A key aspect of Indo-US engagement has been collaboration in specific high-technology areas including semiconductors, next-generation telecommunication, artificial intelligence and defence under the iCET initiative.

In the talks, the two sides are also expected to review ongoing defence cooperation including an ambitious plan between US defence giant GE Aerospace and India's Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) to produce the advanced F414 jet engines for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

In August last year, the US Congress approved the agreement between GE Aerospace and HAL to produce the jet engines.

During Sullivan's visit, the two sides are also expected to deliberate on the ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

There has been a delay in implementation of the mega project in view of the current situation in West Asia.

Billed as a pathbreaking initiative, the IMEC envisages a vast road, railroad and shipping networks among Saudi Arabia, India, the United States and Europe with an aim to ensure integration among Asia, Middle East and West.

The IMEC also envisages to include an electricity cable network, a hydrogen pipeline, high-speed data cable network to facilitate overall economic growth in the partner countries.

The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor is also seen as an initiative by like-minded nations to gain strategic influence in the face of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that has faced increasing criticism over lack of transparency and disregard for sovereignty of the nations.

The BRI is a mega connectivity project that connects China with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.

The IMEC initiative was firmed up on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Delhi in September last year.

An agreement was signed by India, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the US and some other G20 partners for the corridor. PTI MPB ZMN