ASEAN summit: Modi meets Trump in Manila, says India and US can work for future of Asia | india-news | Hindustan Times
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ASEAN summit: Modi meets Trump in Manila, says India and US can work for future of Asia

PM Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, who met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, mainly focused on economic issues, including trade and investment, expanding economic ties and improving market access for each other, officials said.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2017 23:33 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump in Manila, Philippines on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump in Manila, Philippines on Monday. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday pitched a vision of India and the US working together in Asia and the rest of the world during talks with President Donald Trump.

Modi’s remarks reflected the growing convergence on strategic issues between the two sides at a time when India, Australia, Japan and the US have stepped up efforts to formalise a quadrilateral alliance aimed at keeping the Indo-Pacific region free, open and inclusive.

The two leaders met on the margins of the Asean Summit in the Philippines a day after officials of the four countries held talks on the Quad, as the grouping is being referred to. The Quad is being seen a counter-balance to China, which responded on Monday by saying such cooperation should not be “directed at a third party”.

In brief remarks in Hindi before his formal talks with Trump, Modi said India-US relations were very rapidly becoming “deeper and very comprehensive”.

“You must also feel that India-US relations, while rising above the interests of India and the US, we can work together for the future of Asia and (see) what we can do for mankind…There are many issues on which we are working together,” Modi said.

“I would like to assure you that whatever expectations the world has of India, and whatever expectation the US has, India has made all-out efforts to fulfil those expectations and it will continue to do so,” he added.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar described the 45-minute meeting, the third between Modi and Trump, as a “cordial, constructive and very comfortable” conversation on bilateral, regional and global issues.

A White House statement said the leaders had discussed their “shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region”. It added, “They pledged to enhance their cooperation as Major Defence Partners, resolving that two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries.”

The two leaders mainly focused on economic issues, including trade and investment, expanding economic ties and improving market access for each other, he said.

A fair amount of time was devoted to Afghanistan, and Modi briefed Trump on the recent supply of wheat by India to the war-torn country via Chabahar. They also discussed defence cooperation, the situation in the Middle East, counter-terrorism, nuclear proliferation and the Korean crisis, he said.

Sources said the Indian side brought up the issue of holding to account those responsible for “proliferation linkages”– a reference to the aid provided by Pakistan and China to North Korea’s nuclear programme.

The leaders also discussed the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where violence against the Rohingyas has forced more than 600,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.

Energy cooperation, including the first shipment of US crude to India, and the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) also figured in the talks. The White House statement said Trump had expressed appreciation that Indian oil purchases had surpassed 10 million barrels, describing stronger energy cooperation as a “geopolitical and economic game changer for both countries”.

Both sides stressed the warmth of the meeting. Modi thanked Trump for expressing a “very high opinion of India” in recent public speeches, while the US president described Modi as “a friend of ours and a great gentleman doing a fantastic job in bringing around lots of factions in India… all together… It’s a lot of good reports coming out of India.”

The meeting is expected to give a boost to the quadrilateral, which is being widely perceived as a joint effort by the four countries to push back against Beijing’s aggressive polices and its ambitious One Belt, One Road connectivity project.

The move to revive the quadrilateral alliance, first mooted in 2007, has coincided with increased Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and its aggressive implementation of the BRI.

Following the meeting of officials on Sunday, the members of the Quad issued statements underlining the importance of a “rules-based order” and “freedom of navigation” in regional waters – a clear nod to the position adopted by China in its disputes with several countries in the South China Sea.

The Trump administration, which has spoken of the importance of India in its new South Asia policy, has also repeatedly referred to the “Indo-Pacific” region in recent days to underline what it sees as New Delhi’s key role in the region to counter Beijing’s rise.