A Firm Handshake In Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they begin a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTS18QGX

A picture speaks 1,000 words, as it was the case when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met American President Donald Trump at the White House on Sunday (US time). A firm handshake between the two made clear that they were ready to work together in future.

As the two leaders met for the first time, the camaraderie between them was on full display. They not only heaped praise on each other, but also voiced appreciation for each other’s leadership and embraced more than once.

PM Modi and President Trump discussed mainly two issues: terrorism and trade. With India and the US marking 70 years of diplomatic ties, their leaders decided to expand and deepen the bilateral ‘strategic’ partnership and advance common objectives. These objectives include combating terrorist threats, promoting stability across the Indo-Pacific region, increasing free and fair trade, and strengthening energy linkages. President Trump and Prime Minister Modi expressed confidence that, together, the two countries would provide strong leadership to address global challenges.

During the one-on-one meeting, they struck a common note on terrorism, saying that eliminating the global menace is among the top-most priorities for the two nations. They also called upon Pakistan to not let its territory be used to launch terror attacks in India and other neighbouring countries. Modi and Trump even agreed to have a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations and listing proposals.

In a joint briefing with President Trump after the meeting, the visiting Indian premier said: “We talked about terrorism, extremism and radicalisation, and agreed to co-operate on this.” For his part, the American president stressed that the relationship between India and the US has never been stronger and better. “India has a true friend in the White House. India is the fastest growing economy in the world. We hope we will be catching up with you very soon,” he told the press. The president further thanked his guest from New Delhi for creating a “fair and reciprocal” trading relationship and called for the removal of “barriers” for the export of US goods into Indian markets.

According to sources, the Trump administration has cleared the sale of predator Guardian drones to India, as the president is eager to deepen defence and security co-operation with the South Asian powerhouse. In a statement, the White House said that the completion of these sales would increase bilateral defence trade to nearly USD 19 billion. “If selected, the US offer to sell F-16 and F/A-18 fighter aircraft to India would represent the most significant defence co-operation between the US and India to date,” added the statement. Currently, bilateral trade is at USD 115 billion, with India having the advantage. The White House further assured New Delhi that America would remain a reliable provider of advanced defence articles in support of India’s military modernisation efforts.

The meeting in the Oval office was followed by delegation-level talks between the two sides in the Cabinet Room. After issuing a joint press statement, the two leaders had a working dinner. Incidentally, the Indian PM was the first foreign dignitary hosted for dinner by President Trump at the White House. Before leaving the White House, PM Modi extended an invite to Trump, who accepted the invitation. “I would like to invite you to India, along with your family. And I hope that you will give me the opportunity to welcome you and host you in India,” said the Indian PM. He also separately invited Trump’s daughter Ivanka to the US delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India to be held later this year. “And I believe she has accepted,” Trump said in response.

Meanwhile, China has expressed serious concern over the Indo-US defence agreements inked by Prime Minister Modi and President Trump. Beijing issued a statement on Monday, saying that the Chinese government was assessing the deal for surveillance drones as it would certainly boost India’s capabilities in the Indian Ocean. As per the deal, America will supply around 22 unarmed surveillance drones to the South Asian country, apart from co-producing F-16 fighter jets.

Talking to the media, veteran Chinese strategist, Director of the Centre for Arms Control and Professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University Han Hua said that the outcomes of PM Modi’s US visit would be important for Beijing. She explained: “I think the US-India relationship has an impact on the China-US relations. After the Bush administration opened the door to India, people in Washington have been talking about India’s role in checking China’s rise. Especially after the nuclear deal in 2005, the relationship between Washington and New Delhi has emerged as a concern among Chinese strategists. Especially the nuclear deal, as it’s not just a nuclear deal. It is a more symbolic way to show the nature of the strategic partnership between US and India. In that sense, China is concerned.”

China recently asked India and America not to disturb peace in the strategic South China Sea. Ahead of the Modi-Trump meeting, Beijing also urged New Delhi and Washington to play a “constructive role” and try to resolve the disputes.

Senior spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang strongly criticised the US for sending a warship near an artificial island in the South China Sea, saying that America was challenging China’s sovereignty in the region. He also termed the US’ move as “irresponsible” and made clear that Washington would have to face “extremely dangerous consequences” for its deliberate provocations.

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