New Delhi: US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is expected to visit India for the first time in his capacity as America’s top diplomat tentatively on October 24, as part of a three-nation tour that will also take him to neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“The October 24 date is tentative for now,” an official said on condition of anonymity, adding, “we are still not certain if he starts the visit in India and works his way westward to Pakistan and Afghanistan, or the other way around.”
Neither the United States nor India has announced the visit yet. “We have nothing to share on the Secretary’s travel schedule at this time,” a state department spokesperson said.
Sources in India had said Tillerson will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on October 24.
Tillerson met Swaraj on the sidelines of the recent UN general assembly meetings but never in India, which he will be visiting as secretary of state for the first time. He will be the second senior member of the Trump cabinet to visit India after Mattis, who visited in August but skipped Pakistan and went straight to Afghanistan before heading back.
These visits followed Prime Minister Modi’s trip to Washington DC for his first meeting with President Donald Trump. Tillerson and Mattis had called on Modi in his hotel room before he had started for the White House for a one-on-one with Trump, delegation level meetings, a reception hosted by First Lady Melania Trump, followed by a working dinner.
The two leaders had shortly after announced a new two-plus-two ministerial-level dialogue to take place every year of the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries, simultaneously at the same venue. That’s hasn’t worked out yet.