In show of warmth, PM Modi, Donald Trump turn heat on Pakistan and China
The two leaders appeared keen to show they got along, effusively praising each other and exchanging hugs in the White House Rose Garden before cameras.Updated: Jun 28, 2017, 00:02 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump pushed Pakistan to ensure its territory was not used for attacks against other nations, a blunt indictment of Islamabad that signalled a new impetus in the two countries’ resolve to fight terrorism.
In another important nod to India’s concerns over China’s One Belt One Road project, Washington agreed that any infrastructure for regional connectivity must ensure “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
While there were no announcements of major deals, a joint statement confirmed the sale of naval drones to India that Washington has never sold to a non-NATO country, and which New Delhi can use to watch over China’s maritime moves.
In a first meeting that was closely watched for their personal chemistry, the two leaders appeared keen to show they got along, effusively praising each other and exchanging hugs in the White House Rose Garden before cameras.
Trump was also warm but his comments on trade betrayed some chill. Under pressure to expand US exports and create more jobs at home, he called for a trading relationship with India that was “fair and reciprocal”. Last year the U.S. trade deficit with India was close to $31 billion.
But other mutual areas of divergence – from H1B visa for Indian technology workers and US worries over Indian patent laws to America’s role in climate change – were largely left to officials to thrash out behind closed doors.
In the evening, Modi became the first foreign leader to enjoy a White House dinner since Trump came to power, although the US President has held more high-profile meetings and dining with China and Japan’s leaders at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
“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 with a beaming Modi by his side.
The Indian prime minister returned the favour, hailing the ties with Washington.
“My visit and our talks today will mark a very important page in the history of the collaboration and cooperation between our two nations,” he said.
“I am sure that the convergence between my vision for a “new India and President Trump’s vision for “making America great again” will add new dimensions to our cooperation.”
Modi came to Washington looking to revitalise a relationship that thrived under former President Barack Obama but appeared to flag as Trump showed little interest in expanding America’s security and trade architecture in Asia, and courted China to help rein in North Korea.
Modi and Trump first met privately for 40 minutes, double the allotted time, and then were joined by their aides for a longer meeting at the end of which the two sides found common cause to push back against China’s maritime ambitions and Pakistan’s dalliance with terrorism.
The leaders also urged Pakistan to “expeditiously bring to justice” those involved in the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot and “other cross-border terrorist attacks carried out by Pakistan-based groups”.
Trump said the two were determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drove them. “We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said, using language that Modi did not echo.
The joint statement voiced Indian objections to the One Belt, One Road initiative but without naming either China or the project.
India has objected to the China’s ambitious plan for a new Silk Route as the centrepiece of the project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which New Delhi says challenges its sovereignty by lending legitimacy to Pakistan’s claim over PoK.
Analysts felt for a first meeting, the two leaders had made a strong start that signalled continuity on key issues.
“India got what it wanted from the United States on terrorism, defence technology, strategic cooperation in the Indian Ocean, and clean energy,” said Ashley Tellis, a South Asia expert with Carnegie and former official of the George W Bush administration.
“The United States registered its interest in free and fair trade, in completing the sale of nuclear reactors to India, and in increasing market access in India.”
Indian officials appeared pleased with the meeting.
“I would say it was one of the most productive visits I have seen to the United States,” foreign secretary S Jaishankar told reporters.