New Delhi/Washington, Sep 6: In interesting turn of events even as the stage is set for the first '2 Plus 2 Indo-US Dialogue' wherein the US Defence Secretary James Mattis is a principal participant, reports in a section of American media suggest that President Donald Trump is weighing options about replacing him.
The contention has been denied by Trump himself, according to other reports. “Yeah. He'll stay ... we're very happy with him, we're having a lot of victories, we're having victories that people don't even know about, and he's highly respected all over the world," President Trump has been quoted in another report in 'The Hill TV' website.
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote in an article released earlier claiming, "Many officials inside the White House and around the administration had already expected that Mattis would leave his post sometime over the next few months, completing a respectably long two-year stint at the helm of the Defense Department".
The controversy relates to a forthcoming book penned by Bob Woodward - that claims that Mr Mattis as having told staffers that President Trump had the understanding of a "fifth- or sixth-grader" following a meeting to discuss Korea strategy earlier this year.
On his part, Mattis released a statement denying making such remarks. “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility," the US Defence Secretary said in a statement on the new book "Fear: Trump in the White House".
Among other reports on the row, 'Business Insider' also came out with a list on who could be probably replacing Mattis. According to the report, they include retired Army Gen Jack Keane, who once served as vice chief of staff of the Army.
"Also on the list is Senator Tom Cotton, who spent five years as an Army officer and whose service includes combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Cotton currently serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee," the report claimed. Former Treasury Department official David McCormick has also been mentioned, as well as former senator Jim Talent.
Meanwhile, sources in Delhi say defence cooperation is expected to be high on agenda. Both sides will also refer to the US's recent STA-1 classification which eases defence and high technology trade between the two countries.
According to the format of the parleys, there will be two sessions of Dialogues. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will have a separate bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo while Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will have a one-on-one meeting with James Mattis.
There will be delegation-level two-plus-two talks. Pompeo and Mattis along with their Indian counterparts Ms Swaraj and Ms Sitharaman will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.While Pompeo would leave later in the evening hours, Defence Minister Ms Sitharaman will host a dinner for the visiting US Secretary of Defence. UNI