Modi-Trump Har­monise

In­dia-US Con­ver­gences

India Strategic - - CONTENTS - By Nilova Roy Chaud­hury

NEW DELHI. For a visit which be­gan with re­ally “low ex­pec­ta­tions” and was even scaled back to ex­clude the ear­lier- planned Hous­ton leg, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s fifth visit to the US and his first visit to meet with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump went flaw­lessly. All the right cords were struck and the hugs and warm hand­shakes in­di­cated a close con­ver­gence of views.

Of­fi­cials who worked be­hind the scenes to en­sure the visit went with­out a glitch heaved a huge sigh of re­lief and al­lowed them­selves sev­eral pats on the back for a job well done once the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter’s flight left An­drews Air Force Base. They pre­pared well and as­tutely read sig­nals from the White House, es­pe­cially on is­sues and emo­tions that move and guide Trump, thereby set­ting the right frame for the cru­cial meet­ings June 26.

The ex­pec­ta­tions were low and there was cau­tion given Mr Trump’s pro­nounce­ments, partly blam­ing In­dia for USA pulling out of the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, and the un­pre­dictabil­ity of POTUS’ (Pres­i­dent of the United States) tem­per­a­ment. There was ma­jor con­cern about key is­sues like work­ing visas for skilled work­ers (H1B) and how ‘Amer­ica First’ could meld best with ‘Make in In­dia’ to bol­ster the eco­nomic part­ner­ship. Of­fi­cials were also con­cerned about mea­sures to fur­ther bol­ster the global and bi­lat­eral counter-ter­ror­ism ef­fort to make a tan­gi­ble im­pact in In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood.

Some big-ticket busi­ness an­nounce­ments be­fore the meet­ing, like the over $ 2 bil­lion or­der for naval drones; 100 civil­ian air­craft, “which will sup­port thou­sands and thou­sands of Amer­i­can jobs”; and the pur­chase of West­ing­house nu­clear re­ac­tors, al­lowed Trump to brag that the part­ner­ship was gen­er­at­ing jobs for Amer­i­cans.

Washington re­sponded in equal mea­sure, lay­ing out the red car­pet for Mr Modi, who be­came the first world leader

to be a guest of the Trumps at their first White House din­ner for a vis­it­ing for­eign dig­ni­tary. Mr Trump and the First Lady greeted Mr Modi and per­son­ally showed him around the White House and hosted him for din­ner be­fore see­ing him off with hugs and hand­shakes af­ter close and in­tense en­gage­ments for al­most five hours.

The State De­part­ment also made a ma­jor pre-sum­mit an­nounce­ment nam­ing Syed Salahud­din, head of the Kash­miri sep­a­ratist group Hizbul Mu­jahideen, as a “global ter­ror­ist.” This added diplo­matic heft to New Delhi’s claims of Pak­istani in­volve­ment in ter­ror­ism in Jammu & Kash­mir and placed counter- ter­ror­ism co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing in Kash­mir, at the nub of the Indo-US bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

Ac­cord­ing to Am­bas­sador Hardeep Puri, Chair­man of RIS and for­mer In­dia Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the UN, “the State De­part­ment’s des­ig­na­tion of the Hizbul Mu­jahideen leader Syed Salahud­din as a Global Ter­ror­ist and the nam­ing of ter­ror groups “in­clud­ing Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mo­hammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, D Com­pany and their af­fil­i­ates” in a joint US-In­dia state­ment is of con­sid­er­able sig­nif­i­cance.”

Washington’s an­nounce­ment has sin­gled out Pak­istan for ad­mo­ni­tion. At a time when the In­dian state is fac­ing an in­sur­gency type sit­u­a­tion in the Kash­mir val­ley, the des­ig­na­tion of Salahud­din, who op­er­ates out of Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir, be­ing de­clared a global ter­ror­ist vin­di­cates In­dia’s po­si­tion about its prob­lems be­ing or­ches­trated by Pak­istan.

“Pak­istan will have to think hard and fast when it comes to re-eval­u­at­ing its Kash­mir strat­egy...the US

move rep­re­sents a diplo­matic mas­ter­stroke for the In­dian gov­ern­ment,” said an editorial in the Daily Times of Pak­istan, posit­ing that Modi’s meet­ing with Trump “not only poses sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges for Is­lam­abad — it also places sev­eral hur­dles in path to Kash­miri self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

The joint state­ment is­sued af­ter the in­ten­sive dis­cus­sions states that “The lead­ers called on Pak­istan to en­sure that its ter­ri­tory is not used to launch ter­ror­ist at­tacks on other coun­tries. They fur­ther called on Pak­istan to ex­pe­di­tiously bring to jus­tice the per­pe­tra­tors of the 26/11 Mum­bai, Pathankot, and other cross-bor­der ter­ror­ist at­tacks per­pe­trated by Pak­istan-based groups.”

Pres­i­dent Trump called the se­cu­rity part­ner­ship be­tween the United States and In­dia “in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant,” and said both na­tions would work to­gether to de­stroy ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions and the rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy that drives them.

“We will de­stroy rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism,” Mr Trump said at a joint me­dia in­ter­ac­tion with the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter. “Our mil­i­taries are work­ing ev­ery day to en­hance co­op­er­a­tion be­tween our mil­i­tary forces. And next month, they will join to­gether with the Ja­panese navy in the largest mar­itime ex­er­cise ever con­ducted in the vast In­dian Ocean,” he said, re­fer­ring to the ‘Mal­abar’ ex­er­cises be­gin­ning July 10.

Dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to Washington in June 2016, he ad­dressed a joint ses­sion of the US Congress, a rare hon­our. Ad­dress­ing that ses­sion, Mr Modi said that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and Amer­ica had over­come the ‘hes­i­ta­tions of his­tory,” go­ing on to say “in ev­ery sec­tor of In­dia’s march for­ward, I see the US as an in­dis­pens­able part­ner.” In an opin­ion piece in the Wall Street Jour­nal, Mr Modi spoke of a “grow­ing con­ver­gence” be­tween the two coun­tries. The ‘ grow­ing strate­gic con­ver­gence’ is re­flected through­out the joint state­ment is­sued af­ter their cru­cial meet­ing.

What are the take­aways for In­dia from this maiden Indo-US sum­mit meet­ing in the Trump era?

One, Pres­i­dent Trump is keen to con­tinue the “strate­gic part­ner­ship” and “Ma­jor De­fence Part­ner” re­la­tion­ship with In­dia be­gun by his pre­de­ces­sors Ge­orge W Bush and con­tin­ued by Barack Obama. Sec­ondly, with his sharp busi­ness in­stincts, which make the econ­omy and jobs his pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion, Pres­i­dent Trump be­lieves he can do busi­ness with In­dia.

Hav­ing de­clared In­dia a Ma­jor De­fence Part­ner, the US ap­pears keen to step up on the sale of mil­i­tary hard­ware to In­dia.

The un­manned Sea Guardian drones, val­ued around $2 bil­lion, are men­tioned in the joint state­ment. A tech­ni­cal agree­ment

has also been an­nounced be­tween Lockheed Martin and Tata Ad­vance Sys­tems for co-pro­duc­ing the F-16 air­craft.

The joint state­ment, ‘ United States and In­dia: Pros­per­ity through Part­ner­ship’ out­lines the key ar­eas where the part­ner­ship will evolve as the two coun­tries cel­e­brate 70 years of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween them. “The lead­ers re­solved to ex­pand and deepen the strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the coun­tries and ad­vance com­mon ob­jec­tives. Above all, th­ese ob­jec­tives in­clude com­bat­ing ter­ror­ist threats, pro­mot­ing sta­bil­ity across the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion, in­creas­ing free and fair trade, and strength­en­ing en­ergy link­ages.”

In ref­er­ences clearly aimed at China, the joint state­ment, which refers to In­dia and the US as “Demo­cratic Stal­warts in the Indo-Pa­cific Re­gion” calls upon “all na­tions to re­solve ter­ri­to­rial and mar­itime dis­putes peace­fully and in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law” and “re­it­er­ates the im­por­tance of re­spect­ing free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, over-flight, and com­merce through­out the re­gion,” sig­nif­i­cantly called the ‘Indo-Pa­cific’.

In a strongly crit­i­cal ref­er­ence to China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive ( BRI), the joint state­ment states that In­dia and the USA “sup­port bol­ster­ing re­gional eco­nomic con­nec­tiv­ity through the trans­par­ent devel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture and the use of re­spon­si­ble debt fi­nanc­ing prac­tices, while en­sur­ing re­spect for sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, the rule of law, and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

North Korea was se­verely cen­sured, and while Washington and New Delhi pledged to raise co­op­er­a­tion in Afghanistan while con­sult­ing each other on how best to sta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion both in the war-rav­aged coun­try and in West Asia.

To pro­mote ‘free and fair’ bi­lat­eral trade, “the United States and In­dia plan to un­der­take a com­pre­hen­sive review of trade re­la­tions with the goal of ex­pe­dit­ing reg­u­la­tory pro­cesses; en­sur­ing that tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion are ap­pro­pri­ately fos­tered, val­ued, and pro­tected; and in­creas­ing mar­ket ac­cess in ar­eas such as agri­cul­ture, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, and man­u­fac­tured goods and ser­vices. Pres­i­dent Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Modi fur­ther com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion to ad­dress ex­cess ca­pac­ity in in­dus­trial sec­tors,” the joint state­ment said.

Be­yond the op­tics, clearly the sub­stance of the meet­ings be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Modi went well, with both sides set­ting a course and chart­ing a new sym­phony of har­mo­nious con­ver­gences in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with the Pres­i­dent of United States of Amer­ica (USA), Mr Don­ald Trump and the first lady of USA, Me­la­nia Trump, at White House, in Washington DC, USA on June 26, 2017

(Above) PM Modi and Pres­i­dent Trump at the del­e­ga­tion level talks, at White House (Be­low) US Sec­re­tary of De­fence Mr Jim Mat­tis calls on PM Modi

(Above) PM Modi speaks at the In­dian Com­mu­nity Re­cep­tion, in Washington, DC (Left page) US Sec­re­tary of State Mr Rex W Tiller­son calls on Mr Modi

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