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India Describes Relationship with US as 'Positive'

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at first session of parliament in New Delhi, India.

VOA State Department Correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report

Ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to New Delhi next week, the Indian foreign ministry said that the “overall direction of the relationship with the US remains very positive.”

Pompeo’s visit from June 25th, aimed at strengthening their strategic partnership, will be first high-level engagement between the two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi won reelection.

But the visit comes in the wake of rising trade tensions between the two countries after Washington ended preferential treatment for India this month and New Delhi slapped higher tariffs on 28 American goods.

Playing down reports of growing friction on the economic front, foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said on Thursday that despite all the talk about trade issues, overall trade between the two countries has grown to $ 150 billion. “We look upon this visit as an opportunity to discuss all the issues which will be on the table."

“We look upon this visit as an opportunity to discuss all the issues which will be on the table," he said.

The two countries will also discuss the issue of H-1B visas used by foreign workers in the United States. Washington has denied media reports that it plans to cap the numbers for Indian workers, but the issue has been an irritant between the two nations since the Trump administration said that it would make the program more restrictive.

“The secretary will be able to assure the Indian leadership that we have no plans to place caps on H-1B work visas for nations that are having foreign companies store data locally,” said a senior State Department official Friday during a phone briefing to preview Pompeo’s trip to India.

"There is a broad review of the H-1B program underway, but this review is not targeted at India. It's completely separate from our ongoing discussions with India about the importance of ensuring better trade,” that official added.

The foreign ministry spokesperson said India has repeatedly emphasized the contribution of Indian skilled professionals to the growth and development of the U.S. economy. But he said that in a “relationship that is as deep as it is with the U.S., there will be certain issues” between them at all times.