Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to embark on a fresh mission to reinforce Indo-US ties under the new Trump administration. While the Prime Minister shared a very cordial relationship with previous US President Barack Obama, to the extent of being hailed as Bromance on social media, he and President Donald Trump have been getting along well.
After Trump won the presidential elections last November, the two leaders have spoken over phone three times, the last being Trump’s congratulatory phone call after the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
PM Modi will reach the US on June 25 and meet US President Donald Trump on June 26. He will hold talks with Trump on a range of issues, including terrorism and India’s concerns over possible changes in H-1B visa rules.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar who recently called on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to give final touches to PM Modi's meeting with President Trump said that meeting was focussed on improving bilateral ties between the two countries. “We have a lot of areas of mutual cooperation, fighting terrorism, we have a lot of people-to-people ties, strong people-to-people ties; so we’re looking forward to that visit,” Jaishankar said.
But the pundits suspect the agenda of the visit is not limited to visa or terrorism issues. In fact, Modi, who will be Trump’s first guest on a White House working dinner, would have major issues like China, NSG and multi-billion defence deals on his plate.
Let’s have look at key agendas of PM Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump on June 26:
Counter-terrorism cooperation: Both PM Modi and President Trump have made the international cooperation against global terrorism the key agenda of foreign policy. While India has been consistent in galvanising support against Pakistan-based terror organisations in various bilateral and UN meets, Trump’s first state visit to Saudi Arabia also revolved around the issue of state-sponsored terrorism. It is likely that both nations will strengthen cooperation against the global threat of Islamic terror after this meet.
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Defence deals: India will be looking to sign a major purchase of 22 predator Guardian drones, a force multiplier that will boost the Indian Navy’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The deal, estimated to be worth USD two to three billion, has been approved by the State Department. In another landmark deal for Modi Government, Tata Group and American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin have signed an “unprecedented” deal to produce, operate and export the combat-proven F-16 fighters in India, boosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ plan. Under the deal, Lockheed will shift its Fort Worth, Texas plant to India without directly affecting American jobs, a campaign pledge of Trump who has vowed to put “America First”.
Reinforcing Indo-US ties: PM Modi had a warm and fruitful relationship with Obama administration, which resulted in deals and international cooperation. Obama administration had also whole-heartedly supported India’s NSG membership, which has become a crucial mission for PM Modi. In the meeting, Modi would be looking to ensure that Trump administration reinforces faith in commitments previous government made to India, including support for nuclear supply group membership. (China on Thursday once again reiterated its opposition to India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group during the ongoing meeting in Bern.)
Counter China: Apart from continuing to halt India’s entry into exclusive NSG club, China also remains a massive economic nemesis of both India and US. Its manoeuvres in the South China Sea also keep both nations at the edge. “Partnering with India could help the US advance its own security interests, as well as counter the Chinese penchant for aggression in the Indo-Asia region,” Bharath Gopalaswamy director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Centre, said in a memo to the president. Gopalaswamy said the US should assist India by providing it with the means to maintain a “commanding position” in the Indian Ocean region. “Such a policy would bolster Indian capacity through the sale of maritime and surveillance technologies while also spurring domestic business growth and job creation here in the United States. India particularly needs assistance in three domains carrier aviation, space surveillance, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),” he asserted.
Stabilising H1-B visa concerns of Indian IT industry: PM Modi is under immense pressure from the cooperate sector to settle the issue of H1-B visa for India nationals, which has hampered the seamless IT trade between two nations. President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy commanded kerb on Indian IT companies access to US job markets within first 100 days of his administration, plunging the industry back home in crisis. PM will be seeking to persuade the US to liberalise the visa regime as Indian companies contribute significantly to the American economy. “Your desire to return outsourced information technology services to the United States would cost India economically. Such policies would also pose a hindrance for bilateral trade and impede further cooperation. While appealing in the short term, such policies may inflict greater long-run costs to US security interests,” the experts’ memo to White House said.
Paris Climate Change Agreement: When President Trump pulled out of historic Paris Climate Change agreement, he held no bars back in criticising India and China as the major fund benefactors from the deal, while US was being forced to cut down emission. This is first Indo-US meet after the incident. It is expected, although not acknowledged, that India will try to persuade US to bring the agenda of Climate Change back on the table. China certainly hopes so.
Chinese official media have expressed keen interest in any gains made by PM Modi in his talks with President Trump, on immigration and climate change as it will also benefit China. "Chinese people will take a close look at the summit because some of the issues also concern China's interests," it said. “If the Modi-Trump meeting can make achievements in this regard, other countries like China are also expected to benefit from it." “China is glad to see India and the US strengthening their economic ties. However, New Delhi’s bargaining power in negotiations with Washington is limited, so it is unrealistic for Modi to totally change Trump’s attitude toward the H1B visa and Paris agreement. China needs to have a clear anticipation of the summit and be prepared for any eventualities," it said.
With eyes of the world on PM Modi, India hopes with the caution that this visit, not unlike his previous ones, would be fruitful for India’s geostrategic and economic position.
“I look forward to this opportunity to have an in-depth exchange of views on further consolidating the robust and wide-ranging partnership between India and the United States,” PM Modi said in a statement on Facebook.
Apart from official meetings with President Trump and his cabinet colleagues, PM will also be meeting some prominent American CEOs, he added.