President Donald Trump welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House on Monday, June 26th, and praised him for being “such a great prime minister” of India. Describing India to be a “a true friend,” the US president declared that ties between Washington and New Delhi had “never been stronger” – and both the leaders sealed their bond with three hugs.
“I am thrilled to salute you, Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian people for all you are accomplishing together. “The relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, never been better,” Trump said. “Your accomplishments have been vast. India has the fastest-growing economy in the world. We hope we’ll be catching you very soon in terms of percentage increase – I have to tell you, we’re working on it!”
“We want to take our strategic partnership to new heights,” Modi said and added that the two leaders have agreed to enhance cooperation in fighting terrorism – and that he had invited Trump to visit India. Trump said both the US and India had been affected by the “evils of terrorism” and the “radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.
In the first ever meeting between the two leaders who had spent a little over four hours — including Trump’s first working dinner with a Head of State — discussing a wide range of issues including trade and terrorism. Following their one-on-one meeting, the two leaders issued a joint press statement at the Rose Garden but, as decided earlier, did not take any questions from the media.
President Donald Trump’s first meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House was long on proclamations of friendship and short on confrontation over delicate policy issues, analysts said. The meeting between the off-the-cuff President and the prime minister who leads one of the world’s fastest growing economies could have been filled with contentious issues, but publicly that wasn’t evident.
No issue on the table may have be more challenging than how the United States treats India like a “major defense partner” — a designation the Obama administration gave the country in 2016 — without angering neighboring Pakistan. Trump nodded to their possible differences during a meeting in the White House, but struck an optimistic tone. “We agree on most things and I would say by the end of the day we’ll agree on everything,” Trump said.
Trade and terrorism were the two key talking points of the meeting. The two nations also discussed strengthening energy strategies. While there was no explicit mention of the Paris climate deal, the leaders called for a rational approach that balances environment and climate policy, global economic development, and energy security needs. A key issue for India that was not mentioned in the joint statement was that of H1-B visas. It wasn’t immediately known if the issue came up for discussion between Trump and Modi, or not.
“Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism, and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said. Modi, on his part, reiterated India’s concern regarding terrorism in the Indo-Pacific region. “Fighting terrorism and doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation,” Modi said.
On trade, Trump said he would like it to be ‘fair and reciprocal’, hoping that the trade deficit with India currently almost $31 billion will fall. Modi said India would continue to strengthen the already existing trade and manufacturing partnership the two nations share, something, Modi said, that was beneficial to both the nations.
The featured in the talks between the two nations. Trump and Modi were hopeful that the deal between India’s Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCI) and Westinghouse Electric Company for six nuclear reactors and the projects financing would soon be completed.
The US also reiterated its strong support for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group. Trump also welcomed India’s formal entry into the International Expedited Traveler Initiative (Global Entry program) that facilitates closer business and educational ties between the citizens of India and the US.
The two leaders spoke of being responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region and agreed that a close partnership between them is central to peace and stability. Trump’s statements on ‘territorial integrity’ and his administration’s outright condemnation of terrorism by Pakistan-backed organizations was something India was hopeful would come out of the meeting.
During his visit to the White House, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won the endorsement of the US on India’s objections to China’s massive initiative to open land and sea corridors that connect it to Central Asia. India has objected to China’s “new Silk Road” project, because part of it, an economic corridor, runs through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. The government has said the construction and plans violate “India’s territorial sovereignty”, which the US appears to have accepted.
The Indian leader, who has recently looked to woo companies to India with a “Make In India” campaign, said that his vision could work with Trump’s campaign pledge to “Make America Great Again,” his 2016 campaign slogan.
“I am sure that converge between my vision for new India and President Trump’s for making America great gain will add new dimensions to our cooperation,” Modi said. “I am very clear about the fact that India’s interests lie in as strong and prosperous and successful America in the same way that India’s development and its growing role in the international level are in the US’ interest.”
“I want to make a point here that US relationships with India and Pakistan really stand on their own merits and terms,” a senior administration official said. “We don’t see a zero-sum relationship when it comes to the US relationship with Pakistan and the US relationship with India.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gifted US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump a range of gifts, including a handcrafted Himachali silver bracelet, tea and honey from Kangra Valley and hand-woven shawls from Jammu and Kashmir. Modi gifted a folio containing the 1965 dated original commemorative postal stamp, issued to mark the death centenary of Abraham Lincoln. Trump gave PM Modi a guided tour of the President’s residence quarters in White House, including Lincoln bedroom, and showed him a copy of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address and the desk on which he wrote it.
Trump even highlighted their affinity for social media in the Rose Garden. “The relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better,” Trump said. “I am proud to announce … that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media.”
He added: “We are believers, giving citizens of our country to hear directly from the elected leaders and from us to hear directly from there.” Modi has close to 31 million followers. Trump has over 32 million.