The leaders of the world’s two largest democracies will convene at the White House. Past meetings of Indian and American leaders have been colorful, even affectionate affirmations of the two nations’ “strategic partnership”.
The global fight against terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan figured prominently when US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here ahead of his summit-level meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday.
What is imperative is that the Modi-Trump meeting ends with the president convinced that India is the worth the time, attention, and investment of his administration.
But even if he does not, he needs to leave Trump in no doubt that India values the United States as its most important global partner; that India supports the objective of increasing American prosperity and will demonstrate the same over time; and that India remains willing, in cooperation with Washington, to bear the burden of contributing more towards regional security to enhance the safety of both countries.
Trump went first, saying that he promised during his campaign that India would have “a true friend in the White House, and that is now exactly what you have“.
Hailing the the recently-approved $2 bn “Guardian” drone deal between New Delhi and Washington D.C.as “symbolic” and ‘strategic, Pande said that it sends a message to both Pakistan and China. Modi’s brief and subdued plans indicate the care both sides are taking to make sure a relationship on the rocks doesn’t slip any further.
Earlier, Trump heaped praise on Modi during Oval Office remarks as a “great prime minister” who had brought economic growth to India.
Ashok Sajjanhar, a former Indian diplomat, said that India is hopeful but apprehensive. Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them.
During their first conversation on the phone on January 24, Trump had assured Modi of continued support on fighting terrorism.
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Donald Trump hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday for a first tete-a-tete aimed at building a personal rapport in spite of very real divergences between the two leaders, whether on climate change or immigration.
Perhaps that’s fitting, as there is so much in the relationship to work on.
Beyond defense sales, however, the conversational landscape is bleak.
“I think that it would be wrong to say that this administration has been ignoring or not focused on India”, a senior administration official had said.
Economic matters are prickly, too.
Modi didn’t mention the H-1B visa directly.
All of them, with the exception of Musk, have also visited Modi in his home country as they each rush to capture a slice of India’s rapidly growing economy of 1.3 billion people. Trump also agreed to help India in the maritime trades.
Trump, who described Modi as a “true friend!” on Twitter after his weekend arrival in the United States, should find much in common with the Indian leader, with both men having won power by portraying themselves as establishment outsiders.
This will require that Modi not give up on the USA just yet.
So, should Modi ink these deals? Modi heads the Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party, which has sustained criticism at home and overseas for its divisive rhetoric about India’s Muslim citizens, who number some 189 million. Many Indians now fear for their safety and are reconsidering working and studying in the United States.
But the Indian leader’s visit comes at an inopportune time, as the president and his team are distracted by domestic political and legal challenges. Any small win Modi might get from the trip will probably be enough to declare it worthwhile.