Washington: In a telephone call, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have held discussions on reducing the US trade deficit with India. In Monday’s call, they also talked about increasing their cooperation in Afghanistan, according to the White House.

In a statement, the White House said, “The leaders agreed to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership in 2019 and exchanged perspectives on how to reduce the US trade deficit with India, expand security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and increase cooperation in Afghanistan.”

Satisfied at the progress in India-US strategic partnership in 2018, Prime Minister Modi and President Trump appreciated developments such as the launch of the 2+2 Dialogue mechanism, stated news agency ANI. They reportedly took positive note of their growing bilateral cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism and energy and coordination on regional and global issues. They agreed to continue to work together for further strengthening India-US bilateral relations in 2019.

In an attempt to reduce the US trade deficit and facilitate American manufacturing jobs, President Trump has slapped tariffs on America’s import of steel and aluminium from India. In retaliation, India also threatened to impose tariffs but said appropriate action would be taken at the end of the month.

On January 2 this year, during a Cabinet meeting, Trump had asked India, Russia, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries to take responsibility for Afghanistan’s security. Taking a jibe at PM Modi, Trump said the Indian Prime Minister is a perfect example of how world leaders are talking about their contributions that were nowhere near the “billions of dollars” the US was spending.

In response, Indian officials said that Modi’s funding of a library in Afghanistan is part of the community development initiative. The officials added that the country’s major investments, such as mega infrastructure projects including the 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram, the Salma Dam and the new Afghan Parliament building, were made in Afghanistan.

(With Agency inputs)