Washington – President Trump and Prime Minister Modi delivered a joint-statement in the Rose Garden on the future of Indo-US relations on Monday evening. As Modi tried to establish a personal equation and a working relationship with the newly elected President, the Prime Minister seemed to have enjoyed this ‘perfect meeting of minds’ as the two proceeded to enjoy a working dinner. Although the trip was overshadowed by the meeting between the two leaders, other developments also took place over Modi’s brief stint in the US.
CEO’s optimistic about India
Modi’s trip kicked off with a round table that was attended by top American CEOs, including those of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Mastercard, among others. India’s unprecedented growth has already established a win-win situation for India and foreign companies and PM Modi reinforced the great opportunities available in the subcontinent. Issues ranging from visas to investments and job-creation enjoyed the spotlight.
CEOs outline priorities in India and suggestions for mutually beneficial partnerships in line with inclusive growth. pic.twitter.com/3zMLFHyMfm
— Gopal Baglay (@MEAIndia) June 25, 2017
Modi and Trump could’ve switched scripts while addressing terrorism. There was repetitive reiteration on the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism and both’s commitment to strengthening cooperation to defeat groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, LeT, JeM, and any violent affiliates. The two called on Pakistan, expecting leaders to crack down on terror groups and ensure their territory is not being used to launch attacks on other countries.
The US also announced that Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader will also be announced as a ‘Special Designated Global Terrorist’ as a sign of immediate commitment.
— State Dept CT Bureau (@StateDeptCT) June 26, 2017
China, Asia-Pacific, and Maritime security
More common ground could be found between the leaders on issues pertaining to maritime security in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. There was emphasis on freedom of navigation, overflight, and safe passage of commerce through the region. Increased naval exercises between the US and India (and Japan, at some point), along with an approval for 22-Guardian surveillance drones, were also announced.
What seemed to be on course for a strong language against Chinese activity in the region took a calculated turn when North Korea came up. Modi and Trump labelled the rogue regime as one “[who’s] pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs poses a grave threat to regional security and global peace”. This was despite, following Otto Warmbier’s death and persistent tests by Pyongyang, Trump took to Twitter to question China’s ability to counter Kim and co.
While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2017
Indo-US relations will see a new emphasis on trade and economic ties. According to a statement issued by the White House, there will be greater importance given to how economic trade will be done, with references to “balancing the trade deficit”. Trump has noted on a few occasions that India enjoys a surplus in trade with the US and he noted in his address for India to remove any barriers for the sale of US goods and services.
Prime Minister Modi also invited President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump to lead the US delegation to the Global Entrepreneruship Summit (GES) later this year.
Thank you, Prime Minister Modi, for inviting me to lead the U.S. delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this fall. pic.twitter.com/ZNwmTTnGYD
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) June 27, 2017
Long story short, Modi seemed to have got off on the right footing with Trump. The PM enjoyed a certain level of camaraderie with former President Obama and might have succesfully resumed that with President Trump. For being their first meeting (with the obvious goal of securing a strong relationship-foundation), Modi would’ve left Washington feeling satisfied.
However, it must be noted that a lot depends on how words will be translated into actions, especially on trade and terrorism. More importantly, the subject of ‘China’ continues to go insufficiently addressed, if not completely unaddressed. The 2015 US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region was skipped entirely and instead vague, action-less rhetoric was resorted to. Similar talk was used with respect to Afghanistan. The joint-statement indicated a non-committal stance on the nature of India’s contribution for now. This could however change once the US has a revised Af-Pak policy.
Certain items, as expected, were completely ignored. No references were made to the Paris Climate Accords. “The leaders called for a rational approach that balances environment and climate policy, global economic development, and energy security needs”, omitting any mentions of financial support from donor countries. Trump did announce however that India will escalate its energy purchases from the US in the form of “more natural gas, clean coal, and renewable resources and technologies [that] are available to fuel India’s economic growth and inclusive development.”
In conclusion, the hysteria and hugs shouldn’t distract from the fact that actions speak louder than words. These summits usually have a bigger impact on the media and TV outlets than on overall policy. Alternatively, it broadcasts a strong signal of intent to adversaries like Pakistan without doing anything costly. But with the evolution of today’s 24-second news-cycle, results are key. What must be essential is a continuous task-based dialogue between Indian officers and their American counter-parts. Modi might have found a new friend in the White House that thrives on results, but Indian initiative and leadership needs to reflect that friendship as well.
Presidential hug alert. pic.twitter.com/rk1xYmROcn
— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) June 26, 2017
Header image courtesy: CNN.