Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit the United States from June 25-26, 2017. This is his first visit to the States since Donald Trump took over as the President of the USA. The visit is being observed by everyone across the globe with a sense of anticipation. Since President Trump took over office there have been several unpredictable announcements and decisions which have affected India in some way or the other. Now the observers are following this proceeding with keen interest to understand the new paradigm for the bilateral relationship between India and the United States.
PM Modi has been a regular visitor to the US since his election in 2014, and has been a guest there on 5 occasions. His first visit in 2014 helped in turning around the dip in the India-US relationship in the immediately preceding period. Modi managed to make an impact on the citizens of US as he addressed a 20,000 strong crowd, and more watching on the television, from the Madison Square.
This visit of PM Modi to the US, during the Trump Administration, will have a bilateral, regional and global focus because Trump has been trying to unravel many of the legacies of the Obama era.
- Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement of December 2015 on climate change has come as a shock to most of the other leading countries which are a part of the agreement.
- He has made several critical references to India apart from the negative approach to the H1B visas with the proclamation of ‘Hire in America’. Though no further measures have been taken other than enhanced scrutiny, it is an underlying matter which could be a cause for concern.
- Obama Administration had declared India as a Major Defence Partner. The Obama Administration had further tried to encourage this relationship through technology collaborations, along with sales of defence equipment. Now it remains to be seen to which extent the new administration will collaborate to maintain the promises made.
The Two World Leaders
However, in all probabilities Modi and Trump will get along. They are meeting for the first time today and there is every possibility that they will strike up a friendship which will work in favour of both the countries. In fact, Modi and Trump do have much in common and their similarities is sure to come in handy where it concerns discussions regarding matters concerning arms, trade and visas, and also global and regional security challenges.
- Both are populist.
- Both are pro-business nationalists.
- Both have rocked their respective political establishments.
- And yes, both are social media savvy and have more than 30 million Twitter followers.
The reasons why the leaders will see eye to eye:
- While America has guns to sell, India is very much interested in buying them. In fact, according to unofficial reports, India has signed $15bn worth of defence contracts with the United States since 2008.
- There are also negotiations underway to shift production of F-16 fighter jets from the US to India. Lockheed Martin, a US military aerospace firm, is negotiating with India’s Tata Advanced Systems. This is a part of a deal to supply the Indian Air Force with hundreds of new aircraft.
- India is also looking into buying 22 unarmed Guardian drones from Washington with the aim to deploy them over the Indian Ocean waters to keep track of China. If approved, the US would net an estimated $2-3bn. This collaboration can only work towards enhancing the India-US ties.
- It goes without saying that India is one of the fastest growing economies. Now India certainly has vast opportunities for the US. If the Trump administration can focus on these opportunities, there is no doubt that the ties between the two countries will be upgraded.
- Both, Trump and Modi see eye to eye where security challenges are concerned. They are both against Islamist extremism. In fact, Modi may get an invite from Trump to join the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). In return, Modi may ask for a stronger and a firmer action to be taken against anti-India activists in Pakistan.
- Last but not the least, managing the rise of China and counterbalancing the country’s regional clout remains a priority for both India and the US.
The one matter of concern is the clash between the “Make In India” and “America First” missions of the respective leaders. While Trump campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform and ordered a review of the H-1B programme, Modi is likely to raise concerns over a visa scheme for bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the US.