The Modi-Trump Meet: Beyond Hugs and Handshakes

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Diplomatic Relationship

The United States of America and India have been sharing a very sober diplomatic relationship since years. There have been critical junctures in the policies of both these nations after the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s visit to the States during the Obama Administration. However, 5 months ago, when Mr. Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America, foreign policy experts did foresee certain twists to come between the friendship of these two nations.

On June 25th & 26th this year, the Indian Prime Minister visited the United States in furtherance of an invitation from the President of the country, Mr. Trump. This was the third official meeting between the two officials and apparently dealt with a lot of key areas of concern.

The initial five months of Trump’s administration do reflect his style of working, i.e., full of impulsiveness, unpredictable actions, and what not. Hence, Mr. Modi had a bigger burden on his shoulders prior to his visit as he was going to meet a person who is leaving no stones unturned to reverse the policies which were initially proposed and initiated by the Obama administration, for example, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, etc.

Realistic Expectations

There were a lot of expectations from this meeting, especially from the side of the Republic of India. The most important objective of the meeting was to start a fruitful and healthy working relationship with the States for the next few years so that the policies that are supposed to be implemented globally do have an Indian say. Also, the fact that there is a very evident difference as to how the Obama administration functioned and how the Trump administration is functioning, it became more imperative to change the Indian approach accordingly towards the American policies at a lot of important junctures. It was also important for India to bring Trump’s attention to a lot of other key areas, for example, countering terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Chinese efforts to create a hegemony in the South Asian region, etc. It was expected out of Mr. Modi that he would be able to identify the USA’s stance on the above-mentioned areas and would be able to highlight which direction the United States is planning to act. Lastly, it was believed that Mr. Modi will also be trying to take into confidence the private sector stakeholders with respect to the several policies initiated by him in India.

However, what we witnessed during the visit did not even take into account half of the above-mentioned expectations, let alone implementing them. Still, it would be wrong to state that the visit remained completely unutilized as the biggest success, according to me from the visit, has been the designation of Syed Salahuddin as a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ by the United States. Syed has been serving as the supreme commander of a Kashmiri militant outfit namely Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, which is responsible for creating a state of terror and havoc in Kashmir. This comes as a serious blow to Pakistan with respect to the proliferation of the infiltration activities from their side.

Strategic Partnership

With respect to the second key area, i.e., the Chinese position in the South Asian region, it has been made clear by the statements from both India and the US that there is a dire need of certain crucial ingredients to tackle the situation such as Rule of Law, respecting the sovereignty and integrity of a nation, transparent development of infrastructure, etc. Giving special emphasis on the situation in the South China Sea, it was declared that the principles of freedom of navigation in international waters has to be respected and must be given paramount importance and that all the maritime and territorial disputes in this regard must be resolved peacefully in consonance with the international law. This portrays that even the United States seconds the Indian policy in this situation.

The defense has also been a major area of discussion between the two senior officials as the United States is gradually becoming the second biggest supplier of defense equipment to India after Russia. There have been reports stating that a deal for the purchase of 22 Guardian Surveillance Drones is likely to be on the table soon, in addition to a possible partnership tie-up between the Tata Group and Lockheed Martin to manufacture the F16 aircraft in India. This acts as a significant achievement for the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Personal Diplomacy in National Interest

Apart from all the above-mentioned areas, the talks primarily revolved around trade between the two nations. Both Modi and Trump reiterated on having a comprehensive and a significant review of the present bilateral trade policies and to propose certain policies which are in the furtherance of the principle of free and fair trade. We even witnessed Modi’s attempt to reach out to Trump’s family as the Indian Prime Minister cordially invited Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump to head a delegation of American businessmen and entrepreneurs to a Global Business Meet taking place in India itself in late 2017.

It can be easily opined that even though the visit could have been more fruitful, could have accomplished more objectives, it still turned out to be quite a favourable one for India, given the time of the year when the visit took place as it is definitely going to set up a stage for a robust and a resilient growth in the diplomatic relations between the two countries. Mr. Modi has surely overcome the “hesitations of history”, something which he acknowledged while addressing the US Congress the last time he visited the States. He has also proved again that sometimes it is the power of personal diplomacy which turns out to be the most feasible option. The visit definitely has signaled a renewed and rejuvenated desire to work together to bring peace and harmony in both the nations.

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