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A Good Start With Trump Regime
New Delhi under the dynamic leadership of Modi will surely work its way to US policy makers and secure India's security, economic and strategic interests. But all the same it is essential to know which door to knock for the right answer and optimum result in the next four years of Trump regime
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The first meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump has gone well on predictable lines. The photo ops, handshakes, hugs and smiles, analysis of body language and everything else that accompanies such high profile meetings have all happened as was expected.
Whatever may happen in the rest of the world, US presidents in the first hundred days have to address the issues at home such as unemployment, job loss, housing and tax relief-same as in India-Roti-Kapada-Makan. True to his campaign style, Trump made the loss of five million jobs in the last decade and a half an election issue. He openly advocated renegotiating NAFTA and (Free Trade Agreements are not working for USA) scared the voters with twenty trillion national debt.
Trump's ingenious campaign rolled many issues, homeland security, job loss, make-in-America and terrorism and immigration, giving his voters no choice. Narendra Modi did more or less the same in India when he promised stronger internal security, ten crore jobs per year, make in India, terror free India and secure borders. Trump promised that US will do business, as never before, with more ease.
Both Modi and Trump dutifully addressed their respective constituencies in the first few months and years. Trump's first major policy decision was on the issue of immigration. Modi on his part outlined make-in-India and skill development as key programmes. Modi promised ease of business and a less regressive tax regime.
When the two leaders of world's two largest democracies met, they were expected to defend the core agenda of their respective home turf and yet smile and appear normal. Excellent communicators that both are, Modi and Trump have passed this test with flying colours.
Even before Modi landed in the US with a list of America's acts of commission and omission in its fight against terrorism, US State Department declared Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin "specially designated global terrorist", much to the consternation of Islamabad. This set the pace for a joint action against terrorism.
It was suggested that it is too early for India and US to gloss over their differences and work jointly against global terrorism without disturbing geo-political equations. But going by the general optimism that exuded in White House and Rose Garden, the Indo-US security partnership that began during Obama days are likely to reach its logical end. It must have been very encouraging for the Indian side to hear Trump say "We agree on most things and I would say by the end of the day we'll agree on everything," thereby setting aside all contentious issues. According to reports both leaders conversed at length about military cooperation during a Rose Garden ceremony where they also delivered joint statements.
Prime Minister Modi touched upon the key issue of terrorism while addressing the Indian American community saying, "Nobody took India seriously when it warned about terrorism but now it has become a matter of concern for all the world." As if reciprocating to this, Trump, who in his speeches before election had promised to focus on counter terrorism, referred to Indo-US security partnership as "incredibly important" and said both nations would work together to "destroy radical Islamic terrorism." A recent bill introduced in US House of Representatives seeking to revoke the major non-NATO ally (MNNA) status of Pakistan could turn these words into action.
"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," Trump said. This could mean a new beginning in Indo-US relations and also determine the future course of events in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region with far reaching consequences. Besides hoping that Trump does not suffer another "U-turn seizure", New Delhi will have to work very hard to keep up the tempo and put in place a strong strategic road map.
The best part of the Modi-Trump meeting is probably the general agreement on the economic agenda of both leaders. Finding jobs and improving the manufacturing sector is on top of the agenda for both leaders. Both have to work their way towards cooperating with one another without affecting the "be American, buy American" and "Make-in-India" resolve. In fact the past two decades have seen US and Europe outsource their manufacture to China, seriously affecting their manufacturing sector and also their life-style and work habits. However much the governments and industry may try, the average citizens in these countries have got used to "getting it done from others". It is here that India can emerge as a major production centre and also benefit by exporting the surplus. While US could work in terms of technology transfer, Indo-US economic engagement could lay the foundations for a totally new world economic order.
But Trump will have to go back on his warnings on H1B visa ("H-1B, whatever it is, I use it but I don't like it. I want to scrap all H-1B visas", he had said in his election speech). America's cyber security largely depends on the innumerable Indian IT experts and India's IT services accounted for about $82 billion of exports in up to March 2015. It is in the best interests of both countries to relax the rules of the game and reap huge profits for a small sacrifice in their egos and political rhetoric.
New Delhi under the dynamic leadership of Modi will surely work its way to US policy makers and secure India's security, economic and strategic interests. But all the same it is essential to know which door to knock for the right answer and optimum result in the next four years of Trump regime.
(The author is a commentator on strategic and foreign policy matters)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.