Modi-Trump Summit: A Big Leap Forward

The just concluded Modi-Trump summit at White House, Washington DC has ushered in a new era of Indo-US relationship heralding the beginning of a relationship based on equality and convergence of interests. Prime Minister Modi during his fifth visit to the United States and first since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States (POTUS) set the stage by referring to the convergence between his vision of “New India” and President Trump’s vision of Made in America in order to “make America great again”. That is big leap forward. The two leaders have decided to concentrate on convergence rather than divergence that will help in giving a big push forward to the bilateral relations between the two countries which have been marred so far by slow pace of implementation due to bureaucratic procedures and hurdles. The Prime Minister has also succeeded in using his aura and charm in striking a personal chord with the Trumps. The invitation by Modi to Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, to head the American delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this year and her acceptance as well as Modi’s invitation to the Trumps to visit India plus many other firsts during this visit bear testimony to this fact.
Trump also referred to Modi as a “True Friend” while Modi reciprocated by referring to America as the world’s oldest democracy and India as the world’s largest democracy and the convergence in the ideologies of two nations. Trump while addressing the joint press conference said, “I have always had a deep admiration for your country and for its people, and a profound appreciation for your rich culture, heritage and tradition. During my campaign, I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House. And this is now exactly what you have—a true friend. The friendship between the United States and India is built on shared values, including our shared commitment to democracy. Not many people know it, but both American and the Indian constitutions begin with the same very three beautiful words—We the People. The Prime Minister and I both understand the crucial importance of these words, which help to form the foundation of cooperation between our two countries. Relations between countries are stronger when they are devoted to the interests of the people we serve. And after our meeting today, I will say that the relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better.”
The two world leaders also share lot of commonalities. Both are first timers at their job and have been catapulted to the exalted positions without much experience at the national and international level politics. Both believe in walking the talk and are determined to deliver to their people whatever they promised to them as part of their electoral campaign. Nationalism is highest on the agenda of both the leaders. They also believe in “Geo-economics” as a strategy for projection of national power and are determined to create jobs for their respective people. They both have convergence of views as far as spread of radical Islamic Terrorism is concerned and share determination to destroy it. Last but not the least is their shared commitment towards enhancement of bilateral relationship.
In words of the Prime Minister, “Friends, we are not just partners by chance. We are also partners in dealing with current and future challenges that we may be faced with. Today, during our meeting. We discussed the serious challenges of terrorism, extremism and radicalisation, which are the major challenges facing the world today. And we have agreed to enhance our cooperation in fighting against these scourges. Fighting terrorism and doing away with safe havens, the safe shelters and sanctuaries be an important part of our cooperation.” Modi has not only succeeded in changing the narrative of terrorism by including extremism and radicalisation, the changed strategy adopted by Pakistan, but at the same time a very strong and terse message has been conveyed to Pakistan to dismantle the terror infrastructure from its soil. Trump also used the term, ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism.’ An acknowledgement of the stated aim of global Islamic terrorist organisations of establishment of a Caliphate and rejection of the nation-state concept. In all likelihood Trump will revisit the American policy of attacking terror infrastructure in Pakistan and allow strikes inside Pak territory to destroy and dismantle terror infrastructure. Declaration of Sayed Salahuddin as a specially designated global terrorist is also an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s direct involvement in fomenting trouble in India particularly Kashmir. Though he heads a Kashmir centric terrorist outfit his designation as a global terrorist is the result of his shared ideologies with other global terrorist organisations based in Af-Pak region and open call for radical Islam and fight for an Islamic Caliphate by his erstwhile field commander in Kashmir Zakir Musa. Zakir Musa may have been disowned for tactical reasons by Syed Salahuddin and his Pakistani mentors but he enjoys the tacit support of firebrand global terrorists like Hafiz Sayed, Massod Azhar and Makki co-hearts of Syed Salahuddin. Trump administration has also given accent to continue with American policy of treating Kashmir as a bilateral issue between the two neighbours and its refusal to any kind of interference.
The acknowledgement of convergence of interests in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan and security of the Indo-Pacific region and growing Chinese belligerence in the region is another major gain of the summit meeting. For obvious diplomatic niceties China has not been named but the reference is obvious. The Chinese must be closely following the meet and trying desperately to find out the details of one on one discussion between the two leaders. By naming North Korea both countries agree to the danger this rogue nation poses to the world peace and also exposes the evil axis between China-Pakistan-North Korea as far as proliferation of nuclear and missile technology is concerned. The growing defence and strategic partnership between the two countries and the determination of both leaders to further strengthen it is another hallmark of the visit. Joint military exercises, sharing of intelligence, transfer of high end technology and bolstering of Indian defence industry as well as enhancement of strategic partnership between the two countries are some of the agreed means.
Terming the two countries as global engines of growth signifies the emphasis both countries lay on enhancing mutual economic cooperation. While President Trump appreciated the fastest growing Indian economy and introduction of GST regime in India, he also asked for easing the terms of doing business between the two countries. The large gap in the bilateral trade needs to be bridged has been acknowledged by both the leaders. “In this relationship, in both countries, increased productivity, growth, job creation, and breakthrough technologies—an engagement towards all these are, and will remain, strong drivers of our cooperation, and will give further momentum to our relationship,” stated Modi. Trump reciprocated by stating that, “I look forward to working with you, Mr. Prime Minister, to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, and to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal. It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets, and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country.” Both the leaders share very noble intentions but it remains to be seen that how are these translated into reality by the administrations of both the countries. The two leaders also share a common style of leadership and knowing their commitment to the cause of mutual cooperation between the two nations, they would be able to make the horses gallop.

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