July 13, 2018 / 12:24 PM / in 3 months

India says twice-delayed strategic talks with U.S. to be held in September

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will hold a top-level strategic dialogue with the United States in the first week of September, India’s defence minister said on Friday, after the United States last month postponed the meeting for a second time this year.

FILE PHOTO: Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivers a speech during the annual Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow, Russia April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

So-called two-plus-two talks were agreed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

The United States postponed the talks twice but later said it was a priority.

“The 2+2 dialogue with the U.S. is to happen in the first week of September,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the television news agency ANI, a Reuters affiliate.

“The agenda will be to develop and strengthen strategic defence cooperation.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had been scheduled to hold joint talks with their Indian counterparts in Washington on July 6.

But Pompeo postponed the meeting because of “unavoidable reasons”, the Indian foreign ministry said last month.

The meeting was originally planned for April but had to be put off because Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the previous month and Pompeo went through confirmation hearings before the U.S. Congress.

Separately, the Times of India daily reported on Friday that India has invited Trump to be the chief guest at January’s Republic Day parade.

India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Trump and Modi took great pains to stress the importance of a strong U.S.-Indian relationship when they met in Washington a year ago.

But trade differences between their countries have increased in recent months. In June, India raised duties on U.S. farm products in retaliation for Trump’s tariff increases on steel and aluminium.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Nidhi Verma; Editng by Robert Birsel

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