A his­toric meet­ing

The his­toric meet­ing be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­pected to pro­pel the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and the US to greater heights


On June 26 this year, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi head­ing the largest democ­racy in the world and Don­ald Trump, Pres­i­dent of the old­est, scripted his­tory of sorts when they had a his­toric meet­ing at the White House in Washington DC in the United States (US) of Amer­ica. In the last three years since as­sum­ing charge, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has paid vis­its to 48 different coun­tries which in­cluded five vis­its to the US alone. This is de­spite the fact that the US had not treated him with due re­spect when he was the Chief Min­is­ter of the state of Gu­jarat. The US ad­min­is­tra­tion had de­nied him Visa to visit the US hold­ing him re­spon­si­ble as the head of the state for sec­tar- ian vi­o­lence in Gu­jarat in 2002. How­ever, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion qui­etly re­moved the re­stric­tion of is­sue of Visa to him when the BJP scored a landslide vic­tory in the na­tional elec­tions in 2014 and their leader Naren­dra Modi was el­e­vated to the post of Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia. There­after, there was a high de­gree of rap­port be­tween Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi lead­ing to im­prove­ment in the regimes of trade and de­fence. In the last three years that Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has been in of­fice, only one other na­tion from amongst the to­tal num­ber of 48, was vis­ited by him twice. This clearly re­flects the im­por­tance that the re­la­tion­ship of In­dia with the US holds for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi.

Back­drop of Un­cer­tainty

The June-end meet­ing be­tween the two heads of state was to take place in the back­drop of an en­vi­ron­ment plagued with a de­gree of un­cer­tainty cre­ated by some de­vel­op­ments as also on ac­count of the pol­icy an­nounce­ments by the mer­cu­rial Don­ald Trump soon af­ter he took over as the Pres­i­dent of the US. Th­ese in­cluded the pol­icy changes on the is­sue of H-1B visa that would re­strict en­try into the US of soft­ware pro­fes­sion­als from In­dia, a de­ci­sion that is par­tic­u­larly wor­ri­some for the In­dian IT in­dus­try, the ris­ing anti-im­mi­grant sen­ti­ment in the US lead­ing to spike in hate crime against the In­dian com­mu­nity there, ban on travel from se­lect coun­tries, anti-glob­al­i­sa­tion and iso­la­tion­ist state­ments, some­what cyn­i­cal as­sess­ment of the util­ity of NATO, with­drawal of the US from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship as also from the Paris Cli­mate Change Agree­ment that paved the way for China to as­sume lead­er­ship.

How­ever, there were some pos­i­tive vibes as well though con­fined to the regime of de­fence. A few days be­fore the meet­ing, US de­fence and aero­space ma­jor Lock­heed Martin Cor­po­ra­tion en­tered into an agree­ment with the Hyderabad-based Tata Ad­vanced Sys­tems Lim­ited (TASL), an In­dian com­pany in the pri­vate sec­tor in­volved in man­u­fac­tur­ing of com­po­nents for both fixed and ro­tary-wing air­craft. The agree­ment was for man­u­fac­tur­ing in In­dia the F-16 Block 70 com­bat jets in large num­bers un­der the Make in In­dia pro­gramme of the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, for the In­dian Air Force (IAF) as also for the global mar­ket. This pro­posal was mooted by Lock­heed Martin in Au­gust 2016 but un­for­tu­nately, had gone slow af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on tak­ing over in Jan­uary 2017, had or­dered a re­view of the pro­posal by Lock­heed Martin Cor­po­ra­tion to re­lo­cate the F-16 pro­duc­tion line from Fort Worth, Texas in the US to In­dia. Ink­ing of the agree­ment be­tween the orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM) Lock­heed Martin and TASL has rekin­dled hope for the IAF of get­ting a com­bat plat­form in the num­bers re­quired and soon enough. The other de­vel­op­ment was the mes­sage from the state depart­ment to the In­dian Gov­ern­ment as also the OEM that the re­quire­ment of 22 Guardian Un­manned Air­craft Sys­tem (UAS) from Gen­eral Atomics, for the In­dian Navy for in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance, had been ac­cepted by the US Gov­ern­ment. How­ever, the fi­nal word in both th­ese cases is yet to be said.

The task for the meet­ing be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi was to un­der­stand Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pol­icy to­ward Asia as also to con­vince him that In­dia’s rise as a re­gional power would ul­ti­mately be in the in­ter­est of the US. Since this was the very first meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, it was im­por­tant for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to cre­ate the right con­di­tions for the for­ward move­ment and strengthening of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and the US. It was rea­son­able to ex­pect that Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra would avoid con­tentious is­sues dur­ing this very first in­ter­ac­tion with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and en­sure an at­mos­phere of extreme cor­dial­ity that would help cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive for fur­ther di­a­logue and ac­tion.

In the Af­ter­math of the Meet­ing

By all ac­counts, the first meet­ing be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Washington on June 26 this year, is re­garded as em­i­nently suc­cess­ful. As de­scribed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and the US had never been stronger or bet­ter than it is now. In the meet­ing, the two lead­ers re­solved to ex­pand and deepen the strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the coun­tries and ad­vance com­mon ob­jec­tives. The ma­jor is­sues of com­mon con­cern that the lead­er­ship of the two na­tions fo­cussed on were the men­ace of ter­ror­ism, the need for pro­mot­ing sta­bil­ity across the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion, in­creas­ing free and fair trade and strengthening en­ergy link­ages. The two lead­ers re­solved to jointly con­front global chal­lenges and work for the well be­ing and pros­per­ity for their peo­ple.

While the post-meet­ing an­nounce­ments were laced with mu­tu­ally lauda­tory pro­nounce­ments from both sides, what is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance for In­dia is the clear fo­cus of both the lead­ers on com­bat­ing and root­ing out the men­ace of ter­ror­ism from the re­gion. While the two lead­ers com­mit­ted to strengthen co­op­er­a­tion against threats from ter­ror­ist groups op­er­at­ing in the re­gion in­clud­ing the Mid­dle East, quite un­der­stand­ably, Pak­istan was the pri­mary tar­get of this thrust as the joint state­ment is­sued at the con­clu­sion of the meet­ing called upon the Pak­istani lead­er­ship to en­sure that its ter­ri­tory is not used to launch ter­ror­ist at­tacks on other coun­tries. The joint state­ment went on to de­mand that Pak­istan bring to jus­tice per­pe­tra­tors of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Ho­tel Taj in Mum­bai and against the In­dian Air Force Sta­tion, Pathankot. An­other mea­sure an­nounced to ad­dress the prob­lem of ter­ror­ism was to en­hance co­op­er­a­tion to pre­vent en­try of po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists through se­lec­tive ban on travel and to dis­rupt global re­cruit­ment ef­forts by ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions by ex­pand­ing in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing net­works and co­op­er­a­tion in coun­tert­er­ror­ism at the op­er­a­tional level.

With the aim of ad­dress­ing re­gional se­cu­rity con­cerns, the two lead­ers high­lighted the im­por­tance of col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween the US and In­dia in com­bat­ing the men­ace of ter­ror­ism through mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan. Both In­dia and the US have strate­gic part­ner­ship with Afghanistan and the two lead­ers have re­solved to con­tinue close con­sul­ta­tions and co­op­er­a­tion in sup­port of the coun­try. The aim is to nur­ture democ­racy, sta­bil­ity, pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity in the na­tion af­flicted by ter­ror­ism be­lieved to be spon­sored by Pak­istan. What is rel­e­vant is that the US may call upon In­dia to com­mit ground forces in Afghanistan to fight along­side the US forces there. While this may in­deed cre­ate a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion po­lit­i­cally apart from be­ing a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare, this will help the re­quest by the IAF for 100 Un­manned Com­bat Aerial Ve­hi­cles that has been pend­ing since 2015. In­volve­ment of In­dian forces in Afghanistan will help over­come the le­gal im­ped­i­ment as US laws do not per­mit sale of un­manned com­bat plat­forms to na­tions whose troops are not en­gaged in op­er­a­tions along­side US forces.

Mov­ing away from the re­gion, the two lead­ers strongly con­demned con­tin­ued provo­ca­tions by the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea (DPRK) and its pur­suit of nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grammes that pose a grave threat to re­gional se­cu­rity and global peace. The lead­ers called on DPRK to strictly abide by its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions and com­mit­ments. The lead­ers pledged to work to­gether to counter the DPRK’s weapons of mass de­struc­tion pro­grammes. The ref­er­ence to China and her ac­tiv­i­ties in the South China Sea has been rel­a­tively mild, the state­ment read­ing “The im­por­tance of re­spect­ing free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, over flight, and com­merce through­out the In­dian Ocean re­gion”. The two lead­ers pledged to en­hance co­op­er­a­tion in de­fence and se­cu­rity regimes es­pe­cially as In­dia is now a “Ma­jor De­fence Part­ner” of the US. As vir­tual al­lies, the two na­tions would col­lab­o­rate in the de­vel­op­ment of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and ex­pand their mar­itime se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion. The sale of Guardian UAS would en­hance In­dia’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and pro­mote shared se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of the two na­tions.

The his­toric meet­ing be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump which hope­fully is not the last, is ex­pected to pro­pel the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and the US to greater heights.

As de­scribed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and the US had never been stronger or bet­ter than it is now

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi meet­ing the Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the White House in Washington DC, USA, on June 26, 2017


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