Mathai to hold talks with White House officials

Washington: A host of bilateral and regional issues, including the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, Iranian sanctions and Pak-Afghan situation, are expected to figure prominently in talks Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai will have with top US officials during his visit here next week.

Mathai, who is visiting the US for the first time in his capacity as Foreign Secretary, would also drive down to the Capitol Hill during his February 6-8 trip to meet top US lawmakers and is likely to discuss with them the Iranian sanctions issue, officials said.

"They (Mathai and State Department officials) are of course going to discuss all of the issues that fall under our strong bilateral relationship, as well as many global issues," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at his daily news conference.

Responding to a question on Iranian sanctions and their implications on its partners and allies like India, Toner said the US was talking to its allies and partners throughout the world on the latest curbs on Tehran.

"We are trying to do it in a fashion that doesn`t put undue pressure on our partners in this process," he said.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mathai`s visit would give them a chance to speak to the top Indian diplomat on New Delhi`s stand on Iran sanctions, besides discussing ongoing developments in the Af-Pak region, Indo-Pak dialogue and the Afghan reconciliation process.

On Mathai`s visit, Toner said that the seasoned Indian diplomat would hold a series of meetings at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, including with Deputy Secretary William Burns; Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, on February 7.

At the White House, Mathai will meet Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, said Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokesperson.

Mathai, in his talks with US officials at the State Department and the White House among other things, is expected to discuss a range of bilateral issues, including the civil nuclear deal ahead of the India-US Strategic Dialogue early this year.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna would lead the Indian delegation for the Strategic Dialogue. The visiting Foreign Secretary would also have an opportunity to interact with the Washington-based think tanks.

On Monday, he is scheduled to speak on "Building on Convergence: Deepening the India-US Strategic Partnership" at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).