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Modi-Trump meet: Optics are good, but India needs to see if US walks the talk

Premium on optics was bound to be high during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

analysis Updated: Jun 28, 2017 08:48 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Modi-Trump meet,Narendra Modi,Donald Trump
President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hug while making statements in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.(AP Photo)

Firm or loose? Handshakes are often dissected to understand the personal warmth two world leaders exude when they meet.

Premium on optics was bound to be high during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump on Tuesday. The two leaders—who between them have over 63 million Twitter followers —were meeting for the first time.

And everything seemed fluid till the last moment with Indian sides remaining guarded and leaving it all to their American counterparts to talk up every aspect of the visit.

Three bear hugs, first dinner for a foreign dignitary at White House, a walk-around the residential area of the stately building, Trump calling Modi a “true friend” and Indian Prime Minister returning the compliments in right earnest took care of the optics to a great extent.

When it comes to substance, New Delhi got off to a good start on what it wanted on counter-terror cooperation: singling out Pakistan and joint statement for the first time mentioning cross-border terrorism.

The two sides found growing convergence on Indo-Pacific region which could translate into a strategy to tackle growing Chinese influence in the region. But which way this would get calibrated depends on a slew of factors including what lies ahead for Washington-Beijing ties.

Without mentioning China or its One Road One Belt marquee project , the joint statement said the connectivity projects should ensure “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The two sides found their defence and business ties growing though this visit didn’t come up with any definite blue print. H-1B visa and climate change continues to be issues that require greater political will and manoeuvring .

The counter-terrorism cooperation and mention of Pakistan are takeaways that would also get Modi traction among the domestic constituency. A head of his meeting with Trump, the PM spoke about surgical strike on Pakistan-based terror camps to show how decisive India can act . The Trump administration before the talks designated Syed Salahuddin, a political activist turned -militant commander, as a global terrorist. He has been leading Kashmir valley’s largest indigenous militant outfit, the Hizbul Mujahideen and is wanted in India for long.t.

“The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups,” the joint statement said.

But what remains to be seen is how far Trump administration will go in nudging Pakistan, still a frontline state of the US, in walking the talk on terrorism.

First Published: Jun 28, 2017 08:47 IST