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Modi to meet Trump in no-frills visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi   | Photo Credit: AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the US to meet President Donald Trump, their first interaction, on June 26th, the government announced today, for what is being described as a “no-frills” business-only visit aimed at breaking the ice, and building a relationship between the two leaders.

Announcing the Prime Minister’s travel dates on June 25-26, that have been the subject of speculation for several months since President Trump first invited PM Modi over the telephone in January, the Ministry of External Affairs said their discussions will “provide a new direction for deeper bilateral engagement on issues of mutual interest and consolidation of [the] multi-dimensional strategic partnership between India and the US.”

PM Modi and President Trump are scheduled to meet on June 26th morning, in a delegation level format followed by a one-on-one interaction between the two leaders. “A lot will depend on how the one-on-one meeting goes. It is highly possible that there will be a meeting of minds,” a source in Washington who is familiar with the preparations for the visit told The Hindu.

While both sides have indicated possible talks on closer defence cooperation, counter-terror cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan as well as India’s concerns on visa restrictions and US concerns over trade tariffs and intellectual property, sources familiar with the thinking on both sides say this meeting will be more exploratory in nature than guided by “a defined agenda or targets”. The two leaders have spoken over the telephone on three occasions in the past few months, but this will be their first chat after President Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Change accord, blaming India and China for an “unfair deal”.

This will be PM Modi’s fifth and shortest bilateral visit to the United States since 2014, although he did make a 2-day trip to attend the multilateral Nuclear Security Summit in March 2016. An earlier plan to travel to Houston to hold a diaspora event was also shelved last month over concerns it could shift the focus from importance of the Trump-Modi bilateral, sources said, indicating the PM could consider a longer visit later this year.

“It is going to be a no-frills visit confined only to Washington DC,” an official involved in planning the visit told The Hindu, adding that there would probably be a small interaction with the Indian diaspora and business leaders in the US capital, expected to be hosted by Indian Ambassador Navtej Sarna.

 

The one-on-one between the two leaders will be significant because there are hardly any ‘India-specialists’ or a defined ‘India-policy’ in the US administration yet. Apart from US NSA HR McMaster, and Lisa Curtis, senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council who visited India on their trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, no other senior official has been to Delhi yet. The White House has not named an ambassador to India either, although Kenneth I. Juster, Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs at the White House is considered to be the frontrunner for the post. It would take any nominee a few months after that announcement, to be confirmed by the US Congress, officials said.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi have a significant overlap of views on ‘Islamist terrorism’ are expected to explore closer cooperation on Afghanistan and ISIS, sources said. However, the larger concerns will be over business ties, where Mr. Trump’s avowed slogan of “America First” could clash with PM Modi’s “Make in India” project, as both leaders are tasked with creating more jobs in their own countries.

“Developing personal relationship between both is very important. President Trump is targeted on fulfilling his campaign promises. It will be pertinent for both leaders' advisors to identify synergies in those areas which furthers both nations interest,” said Puneet Ahluwalia, a Republican consultant who served on Mr. Trump’s Asian Pacific Islander Advisory Committee.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 5:55:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-modi-to-visit-us-on-june-25-26/article18966095.ece

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