The US presidential election came up at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with a bipartisan group of leaders from America’s prominent think tanks on Monday evening.
The meeting was attended by Brookings’ Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state, and Carnegie’s William Burns, also a former deputy secretary of state. Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, too was present at the meeting.
Officials refused to share details of the discussion, citing ground rules of the engagement.
India has been closely following the US presidential election campaign, specially the ascent of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
In the run up to Modi’s visit, an Indian official confirmed Trump’s campaign was being closely followed by New Delhi but insisted they had found no reason to worry as yet.
The official’s point, made in as many words, was that it was impossible to pin down the famously erratic tycoon to any position as he had flip-flopped on practically every issue.
Pushed by a moderator at a Republican presidential debate in Florida, before he secured the nomination, Trump declared himself against the H-1B temporary visa programme.
Trump said he supported a temporary pause in the programme to study the downsides, essentially Americans being displaced by it, but later he defended the programme.
The H-1B programme is crucial to the bottomline at some of India’s IT giants such as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro and Satyam Mahindra.
Trump has also indicated his willingness to seek India’s help, if elected, to deal with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons should they fall into wrong hands, without, once again, specifying details.
But he has been clear on abrogating the Paris accord on climate change, for which India was a leading partner, using the forum to launch a global solar alliance with France.
“We will see,” the Indian official had said, indicating there were larger issues about Trump and his position that need clarity.
India tends to believe it understands presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton better, given a long history of interactions going back to her days as the First Lady.
Hillary first visited India with daughter Chelsea in 1995 before her husband former President Bill Clinton visited in 2000, in the last months of his presidency.
Hillary visited India a second time as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2012. She famously said in a speech in Chennai in 2011 that it was “time for India to lead”.
Modi met the former secretary of state and her husband on his first visit to the US as Prime Minister in 2014, when she had not yet announced her run but was widely expected to.
There has been speculation in the Indian-American community that Modi may speak to Hillary and Trump during this visit, on phone if not in person, but officials have all but ruled it out.