PM Modi can handle it, says Donald Trump on terror from Pakistan
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday affirmed faith in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ability to handle terrorism emanating from Pakistan and said an India-US trade deal would be concluded soon.
Talking to the media ahead of his meeting with the Indian premier on the margins of the UN General Assembly, Trump said it was not for him to give any message to Pakistan on cross-border terrorism as a “pretty loud message” had already been sent by Modi – a reference to the Prime Minister’s thinly veiled attack on Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism at the “Howdy, Modi!” event at Houston on Sunday.
Trump effusively praised Modi, even calling him the “father of India” for his efforts to bring the country together and comparing him to rock star Elvis Presley for his ability to rouse the audience at the community outreach event in Houston.
Modi, who was seated next to Trump, praised Trump for his support to India. “I am thankful to Trump that he came to Houston. He is my friend but he is also a good friend of India,” the PM said at the meeting, referring to the event in Texas on Sunday when the two leaders spoke in front of a strong crowd consisting mostly of Indian-American people.
“In the four months since our government came back, I have had the chance of meeting President Trump thrice and we have held detailed and fruitful discussions on different issues. The continuous engagement and closeness between the largest and oldest democracies is a great sign for a world that believes in democratic values,” the Prime Minister said.
Just as he had done during his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, Trump sidestepped questions on Islamabad’s role in sponsoring and supporting terrorism against New Delhi and said Iran should be “at the top of the list” of terrorist states.
Trump made no new offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue, as he had done during his meeting with Khan, and instead said he believed the prime ministers of India and Pakistan could “get together and work something [out]”.
Asked what message he would like to give Pakistan in light of Khan’s past remarks that there are 40,000 terrorists in that country and that the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence had trained al-Qaeda, Trump replied: “Well, I mean the message is not for me to give, it’s for Prime Minister Modi to give and I think he gave that loud and clear on the other day...He gave a pretty loud message and I’m sure he’ll be able to handle that situation.”
Responding to other questions on the same issue, Trump said he hadn’t heard Khan’s remarks on the Pakistan Army training al-Qaeda and added that “I know this, that your Prime Minister will take care of it”. He added, “You have a great Prime Minister, he will solve the problem, I have no doubt about it.”
Asked about Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, he replied, “You mentioned Pakistan but Iran would have to be at the top of the list because if you look at terrorist states, that’s been the number one for a long time.”
Trump further said, “It will be great if they [India and Pakistan] could work out something on Kashmir, we all want to see that.” He added that he believed Modi and Khan “will get along when they get to know each other and I think a lot of good things will come from that meeting”.
Responding to a question on tackling India-US differences on trade, Trump said both sides were “doing very well” and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer was negotiating with India’s “very capable representatives and I think very soon we’ll have a trade deal”.
Indicating that this may be a limited pact for now, he added, “We’ll have the larger deal down the road a little bit but we will have a trade deal very soon.”
People familiar with developments said the limited trade deal was expected to address immediate concerns of the two sides, including the US demand for removing price controls on medical devices and stents, greater access for American dairy products and reduction of tariffs on ICT, and the Indian demand for reinstating benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which were withdrawn in June.
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal travelled to New York for talks with Lighthizer on the trade deal while US ambassador Kenneth Juster had held extensive negotiations with commerce ministry officials in New Delhi over several days ahead of Modi’s visit to the US, the people said.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Modi also referred to deal inked during the Houston leg of his US visit and stated that it will lead to the creation of 50,000 jobs in years to come. “In Houston, in my presence, an agreement was signed by Indian company Petronet for the amount of $2.5 billion. This amount will be invested in the energy sector. In years to come, this will result in the trade of an amount of 60 billion dollars worth of trade and would lead to the creation of 50, 000 jobs which I think is a very big initiative taken by India”, he said.
The two leaders also spoke about their camaraderie, with Trump saying his personal chemistry with Modi was “as good as it can get”, he said he had “great respect” and “great admiration” for the Indian leader. “I remember India before, not intimately, but I remember India before, it was very torn, it was a lot of dissension and a lot of fighting and he brought it all together. Like a father would bring it together, and maybe he’s the father of India. We’ll call him the father of India...,” he said. Trump said the “Howdy, Modi!” event showed how much he liked India and Modi. “There was tremendous spirit in that room too and they love this gentleman to my right...Those people went crazy, that was like Elvis...it was like...Elvis Presley came back,” he said. “Trump is definitely my friend and a very good friend of India,” Modi said at the beginning of the briefing.