Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale
US President Donald Trump’s first visit to India on February 24-25, 2020 was viewed important aspect of partnership – be it defense and security, energy strategic partnership, technology cooperation, global connectivity, trade relations or people to people relations. Though Mr Trump was the seventh US President to visit India, he was the first President to visit India in his first term. Trump trip to India meant to further demonstrate the strong and enduring ties between the two countries.
The first stop of President Trump was in Ahmedabad where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Modi. Both the leaders visited Sabarmati Ashram, where Mahatma Gandhi lived for thirteen years. From there, they went to participate “Namaste Trump” event at Ahmedabad’s newly built Cricket Stadium in Motera. He was enthusiastically cheered by more than 100,000 Indians.
Welcoming President Trump, PM Modi stressed that India-US relations were no longer just another partnership, but it is far greater and closer partnership. In response, President Trump promised “an incredible trade deal” and supply of “the most feared military equipment on the planet” to India at his biggest rally abroad. Trump was exceedingly generous in his personal references to Modi in his address, calling him “an exceptional leader”, a “champion of India”, a “great Prime Minister”, a “tremendously successful leader”, “tough negotiator” noting his electoral victory in the largest election anywhere. His speech was also full of praise of great Indian heritage, culture, sports, bollywood and its progress in science and technology
Three core themes highlighted Trump’s address in India. The first was a broad recognition of India’s continued rise as a power and, with some exception, unalloyed praise for India’s rise as a democracy. “India’s rise as a prosperous nation is an example for every nation of the world and one of the outstanding achievements of the century,” Trump said in his speech. “It is all the more inspiring because you have done it as a democratic country, as a peaceful country, you have done it as a tolerant country, and you done it as a great, free country.”
Second, as anticipated, Trump steered clear of India’s ongoing internal political divisions over last year’s internal reorganization of the status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory with the same name, and a controversial citizenship bill that critics have said privileges non-Muslim migrants from India’s neighboring countries. Trump made reference to India’s pluralistic polity and diversity in his remarks, highlighting, for instance, that India was “admired” because “millions upon millions of Hindus, and Muslims, Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Jews worship side by side in harmony.”
A final takeaway that jumped out from Trump’s speech was the U.S. president’s decision to take on Pakistan and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan directly. He clearly stated that India and USA are fused in the pursuit to fight radical Islam. India and US will fight terror together. He said it all at a time when it is arguably a higher foreign policy priority for the Trump administration to cinch a peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban with Pakistan’s support.
The two nations focused on taking forward the strategic partnership with closer cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and increased defence ties, beyond a buyer-seller relationship. The joint statement, in particular, mentioned closer collaboration on “co-development and coproduction of advanced defence components, equipment and platforms and partnership between their defence industries”.
India and the US signed a $3 billion defence deal, Donald Trump said, “Earlier today we expanded our defence cooperation with agreements for India to purchase more than $3 billion of advanced American military equipment, including Apache & MH-60 Romeo Helicopters – finest in the world. These will enhance our joint defence capabilities. While PM Modi said that India and the US have resolved to jointly fight against those who back terrorism, Donald Trump said, “We have agreed to cooperate in dealing with radical Islamic terrorism and protect our citizens. We are resolved to eliminate terror operations on Pakistan soil.”
Energy cooperation was described as a major takeaway from the visit, with the two sides agreeing to expand linkages with an increased engagement between industry and other stakeholders. The two leaders “encouraged the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Westinghouse Electric Co to finalise the techno-commercial offer for the construction of six nuclear reactors in India at the earliest date”.
US wooing India in its Indo-Pacific strategy and Blue Dot Initiative, which aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together to promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development against China’s Belt and Road Initiative”. “US-Japan-India-Australia” Quad as the mainstay of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the main objective of which will promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States–India defence cooperation contributes to the prosperity and security of the entire Indo-Pacific region.
The U.S. and India announced a deepening of their security relationship to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” encompassing cooperation on maritime and space domain awareness, enhanced military exchanges and training, defense industry collaboration, secure 5G networks, sustainable infrastructure investments and efforts to combat terrorism and drug trafficking.
The joint press conference went off smoothly, with Modi describing ties as a comprehensive global partnership, covering defence, security, technology, connectivity, trade, terrorism, energy, industry 4.0, innovation, enterprise, education, the Indo-Pacific, and people-to-people ties. He mentioned the understandings reached between the two commerce ministers that will be reduced to a legal form, and the start of negotiations on “a big trade deal”.
Trump characterized the visit as “very productive”, mentioned the $3 billion worth of defence deals signed, referred to combat against radical Islamic terrorism, US pressuring Pakistan on “terrorism on its soil”, secure 5G networks, and high quality infrastructure. He noted the 60% increase in US exports to India during his presidency and the 500% increase in energy exports.
The eventful visit will be remembered for Mr. Trump’s famous words at the mega-rally that were greeted with thunderous applause: “America loves India, America respects India and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people.”‘Namaste trump’trip put emphasis on Indo-Pacific, building a roadmap for credible peace in Afghanistan, allowing for the transfer of key technologies across sectors, expanding trade and commerce and taking advantage of emerging opportunities in agriculture, healthcare, digital trade, etc. Visit to India demonstrated the strong and enduring ties between the two largest democracies of the world. The meeting between the two leaders indicates their commitment to strengthen the bilateral relations and continue to work together through contentious issues.
(The writer is In-Charge, BJP Foreign Affairs Dept)
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale