Modi-Trump meet was a success: Key takeaways

If the designation of Hizbul chief Syed Salahauddin as a ‘global terrorist’ ahead of the meet was a hint of robust talks, the joint statement confirmed it.

 |  7-minute read |   27-06-2017
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Forget handshakes, count the bear hugs. For one, it was not Prime Minister Narendra Modi but President of the United States Donald J Trump who was responsible for that. The first official White House state guest was here and POTUS Trump couldn’t get excited enough. India-US ties never looked so overtly expressive and gushing.

All the hype aside, both in the Indian and American media, there were concerns and justified caution over the meeting, even though chatter in the diplomatic and consular circles kept assuring journalists that “red carpet” would be rolled out for PM Modi at the White House.

Earlier in the day, Modi addressed a gathering of top US business persons, including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai, among others, and said how the GST would make ease of doing business a cakewalk in India. PM Modi also paraded the September 29, 2016, surgical strikes as an example of India’s confident defence sector and military capability to take on Pakistan.

Designating Hizbul chief as ‘global terrorist’

Though counter-terrorism featured heavily in the US-India talks between the POTUS and the PM, it was the designation of Hizbul chief Syed Salahauddin as a ‘global terrorist’ ahead of the meet that came as major hint of the robust talks to come, with the joint statement confirming it.

Moreover, the joint statement by Trump and Modi were littered with references to common problems such as Pakistan, China and even North Korea, and this meant that India and US have taken their shared interest in counter-terrorism to a brand new level of strategic cooperation.

The endorsement from POTUS Trump couldn’t have come at a better time, with China and Pakistan both hiking the anti-India rhetoric in global platforms. While China expressed ire at India being sold 22 surveillance drones, Pakistan was stunned as Syed Salahauddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahideen, as a “global terrorist”, since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan had even mentioned Burhan Wani, the slain Hizbul militant, as a martyr at the UNHRC meet some time back.

The joint statement

Warm welcome from Trump and First Lady Melania came after PM Modi met a slew of top officials in the Trump government, including defence secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But President Trump and PM Modi’s budding friendship got imprinted in the joint statement that was issued later, as Trump reiterated that he was a “true friend” of India and the strategic relationship between the countries was “incredibly important”.

The big takeaway was the passionate plea against terrorism and the overt promise to go about tackling terrorism in the Indian subcontinent together, shutting down terror camps across the Line of Control, in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It’s interesting because Trump called India a “very, very incredible nation” and he even sent a “salute” for Indians. If this is in contrast with the H-1B visa restrictions, neither leader mentioned it.

Moreover, Trump insisted on “fair and reciprocal trade” and said that he’d see to it that the US trade deficit with India – about USD 30 billion, something that’s much lower than what the US has with China – is lowered. But the bromance was premised on Trump saying that big orders for hundreds of fighter aircraft and a deal between a US company and an Indian counterpart was sure to get bring thousands of jobs to USA and India. 

He was possibly referring to the Lockheed Martin-Tata talks to jointly manufacture F-16s, though no official confirmation has come on this yet. Moreover, Spice Jet too has announced that it would buy new fleet of planes from Boeing, and Trump might have hinted at that as well.

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But Trump’s typical hyperbole, which is matched by Modi’s own penchant for overdoing his speeches, came as they mentioned taking on “radical Islamic terrorism”. It must be noted that hours before the Modi-Trump meet, the US Supreme Court in fact reinstated Trump’s executive order (the revised one) banning citizens from six Muslim majority countries from entering the United States.

Yemen, Syria, Iraq – all feature in this list, and it must noted that the US is directly responsible or aiding the bombing of these countries in wars of supremacy that only seen to be getting worse. This, of course, comes after Trump’s 110-billion-dollar deal with Saudi Arabia in March this year, exactly as the kingdom goes through a massive churn fronting the new Crown Prince Mohd Bin Salman.

However, with Trump firmly backing India in its bid to eliminate cross-border terrorism, it seems a new chapter of partnership and sharing of intelligence, military cooperation in sea and in land, is underway. This was reciprocated by PM Modi who said: “I am convinced that a strong and successful America benefits India. India’s development and its increasing role on the world stage is good for America.”

This great show of mutual beneficence and bilateral symbiosis was, of course, irking China, which had earlier expressed concerns over US selling 22 Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems (surveillance drones) to India. With more military deals and partnerships getting chalked out, it seems Beijing is more than rattled.

Also, its firm backing on Islamabad, attempting to prevent labeling of Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist” at the UNSC, etc, have all come back to haunt it with the US under Trump shedding its hesitation over siding India over Pakistan.

Personal gestures

There was diplomatic warmth in the air as the Trump family, including Donald and Melania Tump, daughter Ivanka, son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner were all present, and greeted Modi. In turn, the PM invited the Trump family to India, which they eagerly accepted, though no date has been fixed yet.

We wonder if Trump will be the chief guest at the next Republic Day parade? In the White House, Trump took Modi to the Oval Office, and they shared their respective mentions through history. If Modi said that he remembered how Trump had spoken favourably of him even before he became the PM of India, Trump reciprocated by saying that Modi is handling India well.

“He’s doing a great job. Economically, India is doing well. I congratulate him on this.” But of course, the bonhomie is premised on a whole lot of military purchase, whether as part of Make in India, or not. India under Modi is likely to pay through its nose to support the new phase of “true friendship” with the United States under Donald J Trump.

lso read: What if cow instead of tiger is declared the national animal of India?

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