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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Bear hugs to stern message for Pakistan: 10 takeaways from Modi, Trump meet

Modi became the first foreign leader to enjoy a White House dinner since Donald Trump came to power and the two leaders discussed a range of issues.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2017 10:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

It wasn’t that awkward after all. There were bear hugs, promise of things to come and a talk of strong relationship.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to be between friends, without the awkwardness of a first date.

Modi became the first foreign leader to enjoy a White House dinner since Trump came to power and the two leaders discussed a range of issues.

Here are ten key takeaways from the much-watched meeting:

1) Stern message to Pakistan

India and the US asked Pakistan to ensure its territory was not used for cross-border terror strikes and to “expeditiously” bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi also vowed to strengthen efforts to fight terrorism and eliminate safe havens for terrorists. “Eliminating terrorism is among the topmost priorities for us,” Modi told reporters in his joint address with Trump at the White House.

Trump said they were determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drove them. “We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.

2) Drones are coming

The US has cleared the sale of predator Guardian drones to India, as the two sides pledged to deepen defence and security cooperation.

“Reflecting the partnership, the US has offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, which would enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests,” said a joint statement released after Modi-Trump meeting.

These unarmed drones will allow New Delhi to keep a closer watch over the strategically important Indian Ocean.

Trump thanked India for purchasing US military equipment. He told Modi “there’s nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment. Nobody even close.”

3) Hizbul chief tagged a terrorist

Hours before the two leaders talked about terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil, the US designated Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist.

The state department said in a notification that Salahuddin had committed, or posed a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.

The 71-year-old, who also leads the United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation of militant groups operating in Kashmir, had claimed last year’s attack on Pathankot airbase. He is believed to be close to hardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

All of Salahuddin’s property and assets subject to the US’ jurisdiction will be blocked and American citizens can’t do business with him.

4) ‘Lower trade barriers’

Trump said he was keen to work with Modi on creating a “fair and reciprocal” trade relationship between the two nations and called for the removal of “barriers” for the export of US goods into Indian markets. “It is important that that we reduce our trade deficit with your country,” he said.

The US was looking forward to increasing energy exports and major long- term contracts for the purchase of natural gas were being negotiated. “…and we will sign them. Trying to get the price up a little bit,” Trump said.

Donald Trump speaks during a dinner with PM Narendra Modi at the White House.
Donald Trump speaks during a dinner with PM Narendra Modi at the White House. ( AP Photo )

5) Thumbs-up for GST

Referring to the goods and services tax (GST), India’s new tax regime that kicks in from July 1, Trump said it was “the largest tax overhaul in your country’s history”.

“We’re doing that also, by the way. Creating great new opportunities for your citizens. You have a big vision for improving infrastructure, and you are fighting government corruption, which is always a grave threat to democracy,” he said.

India is the fastest growing economy in the world, Trump said, adding, “We hope we will be catching up you very soon.”

6) Joint naval exercise

The two militaries were working together to enhance cooperation. Talking about the next month’s Malabar exercise, Trump said the US and India would join the Japanese navy in the largest maritime wargame ever conducted in the Indian Ocean.

7) Afghanistan on agenda

Both leaders expressed concern over rising instability in Afghanistan and agreed to strengthen coordination for ensuring peace in the war-torn country.

Trump said he wanted to “thank the Indian people” for their contribution in helping development in Afghanistan.

Modi, in turn, said India “would maintain close consultation and communication with the US” to achieve the joint goal of peace and stability.

PM Modi hugs US President Donald Trump as he departs from the White House.
PM Modi hugs US President Donald Trump as he departs from the White House. ( Reuters Photo )

8) ‘North Korea a threat’

Trump and Modi called North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs a “grave threat” to global peace, the White House said in a statement.

“The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly,” Trump said. He thanked Modi for “joining us in applying new sanctions against Pyongyang”.

The two pledged to work together to counter North Korea’s “weapons of mass destruction” programme and vowed to hold “all parties” that support the programmes accountable, the statement said.

9) Growth engines

Describing both countries as “global engines of growth”, Modi said trade, commerce and investment were key areas of mutual co-operation. “Technology, innovation and knowledge economy are also areas we are actively looking at,” he said.

10) BFFs?

The two leaders heaped praise on each other as they underlined the close ties between their countries. “During my campaign, I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House. And that is now exactly what you have, a true friend,” Trump said at the White House’s Rose Garden.

“I am thrilled to salute you, Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian people for all that you are accomplishing together. Your accomplishments have been vast,” Trump said.

Modi said he deeply appreciated Trump’s strong commitment to the enhancement of bilateral relations and invited the US President and family to India. Trump said his daughter, Ivanka, would travel to India this fall for an entrepreneurship summit.

(With agency inputs)