Strategic issues dominate Modi-Trump talks

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 27, 2017

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House in Washington before making their joint statement   -  AP

Economic issues on the backburner for now; focus on counter-terrorism measures

The much-awaited meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump was nothing short of a tough talk between both sides putting the spotlight back on strategic and security issues while the troubled economic issues clearly took the backseat.

In an effort to achieve something substantial at a time when both sides are marking 70 years of diplomatic ties, the two leaders clearly steered away from the usual rhetoric and charted a new path that heavily dealt with issues related to counter-terrorism and security while at the same time conspicuously sending out sturdy messages against each other’s respective opponents, be it China, North Korea or Pakistan.

According to the joint statement issued by both sides post Modi’s daylong meetings with Trump, the US and India asserted that a robust partnership between the two will result in bringing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. They even reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation, overflight and commerce in the region with obvious reference to China and its role in the South China Sea dispute.

While US was successful in putting North Korea and weapons of mass destruction on the joint statement, India was able to bargain its way by having one full paragraph dedicated to Pakistan and the fact that terrorists are breeding on its soil.

“The joint statement has clearly focussed on strategic issues and India was quite successful in culling out for itself a balanced joint statement. The statement has made it clear that the leaders are more focussed on strengthening strategic issues while the economic issues, which is full of complaints, will be there for the officials to handle,” said Neelam Deo, Director, Gateway House, who was also India’s Consul General in New York from 2005 to 2008.

India claimed major diplomatic victory against Pakistan by having America designate Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen chief Syed Salahuddin as a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ while the US also asked Pakistan to speed up the trials on 26/11 Mumbai blasts, Pathankot and Uri among others.

Both sides also decided to cooperate with each other against some of the dreaded terrorist organisations such as Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and D-Company.

In a 20-minute one-on-one meeting between Modi and Trump, it was decided that a new consulting mechanism will be set up on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals.

The leaders announced increased cooperation to prevent terrorist travel and to disrupt global recruitment efforts by expanding intelligence-sharing and operational-level counterterrorism cooperation.

Both sides decided to exchange information on known and suspected terrorists for travel screening even as they decided to strengthen exchange of information between the intelligence officials on both sides over movements and linkages of terrorist groups and their leaders, as well as on raising and moving of funds by terrorist groups.

US also supported India’s “early membership” in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group. In addition to that, Trump also reiterated America’s support for India’s permanent membership on a reformed UN Security Council.

Defence cooperation

Reiterating India’s recognition by the US as a ‘Major Defence Partner’, both sides decided to work together on advanced defense equipment and technology. The decision to buy ‘Sea Guardian’ drones from US in a $2-billion deal was also finalised by India during the talks.

“India is being considered as major defence partner was clear from the fact that the US agreed to sell these drones for the first time to a non-NATO country. This clearly shows the strategic importance with which US is viewing India,” said Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice-President, Observer Research Foundation.

Modi also extended an invitation to President Trump to visit India.

Published on June 27, 2017
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