Trump minced no words on Pakistan’s terrorism
India-US must work on the Indo-Pacific strategy and China’s regional assertion
United States (US) President Donald Trump’s state visit saw a renewal of vows on tackling terrorism with the joint statement listing a slew of Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups and calling on Pakistan to “ensure that no territory under its control is used to launch terrorist attacks.” Mr Trump agreed it was in the interests of both governments that any peace process in Afghanistan would preserve the “gains of the last 18 years”. While he remains determined to end the US military presence in Afghanistan, it is hoped Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded him of the consequences of such an action. Mr Trump likes to play up his role in the destruction of the Islamic State. Hopefully, this has now become twinned in his mind with India’s struggle against Pakistan.
Terrorism was a relatively easy part of the summit. Both Mr Modi and Mr Trump have partly built their political fortunes on an uncompromising stance towards Islamist terrorism. The trickier part has been concretising a broader strategic commitment to continue to work against Chinese regional assertion. Again, the summit language has been forthright with references to the Indo-Pacific, complete with the Blue Dot network and the financial structures designed to take on the Belt Road Initiative. There is an assumption Mr Trump is not interested in abstract concepts like the balance of power in Asia. However, he signed off on US national security and defence strategies that placed concerns about China front and centre. What India can now assume is that it can work with the US on the Indo-Pacific strategy without worry of presidential interference. Mr Trump has absorbed and accepted that on terrorism and great power rivalry, India is on the right side of the ledger — even if its tariffs are too high.