Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump in their maiden bilateral meeting must focus on establishing new priority areas in the Indo-US cooperation, which is an important for Asia’s regional stability, an American expert has said. “Ahead of the first Trump-Modi summit, US-India relations are on uncertain footing. There is not yet a visible, cabinet-level leader in the US willing to take up this relationship as a priority. Trade concerns on both sides are growing,” Richard M Rossow said in an op-ed released ahead of Modi’s visit to the US. “The June 2017 summit must focus on establishing the new priority areas for cooperation. The strength of this relationship is an important component of Asia’s regional stability, and both leaders must ensure that recent momentum is maintained,” Rossow, senior adviser and Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic International Studies said yesterday.
Rossow said the notion that Trump and Modi’s shared political characteristics would ensure continued progress in building ties between the US and India is visibly falling apart. “Though leaders in both countries reiterate the standard line that they prioritise the other, in a more practical sense, we have seen increased frictions in the last six months. The US is turning up the heat on India on commercial matters, while India expands its vision of “Make in India” and is courting additional global relationships with new vigour,” he said. “The Modi-Trump summit on June 26 is a singular chance to get an early, favourable course correction. At risk is a possible four-year freeze in ties, with increased friction on trade and backsliding on past commitments to cooperation. The meeting will provide more clarity on whether the past six months have been Act 1 in a surprising friendship or Round 1 of a protracted slugging match,” Rossow said.
Lindsey Ford, director of Asian Security, Asia Society Policy Institute said, while Trump and Modi may have challenging waters to navigate on the economic front, especially regarding trade deficits and visa issues, a bright spot in their conversation is likely to be the security and defence relationship. Anubhav Gupta, assistant director, Asia Society Policy Institute, said that Modi is sure to bring up South Asian stability, in particular US policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. The administrations recent decision to let the defence department determine troop levels in Afghanistan could result in a short term influx of US troops there, which India might welcome, he said. “However, India will look for reassurance that the administration is committed for the longer term in Afghanistan and has a true interest in and strategy for maintaining stability,” Gupta said.
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“Modi will also push the administration for a more stern US policy toward Pakistan, which continues to support militancy in Afghanistan and India. Support on these two fronts would reassure India greatly,” he said. According to Puneet Manchanda, professor of marketing at the Ross School of Business, Modi’s visit to the US is best seen as a reset of economic relations between the two countries. “Given the new regime in the White House, India needs to make sure that US investment in India, especially as related to defence and energy, is not going to change dramatically,” he said. “It also seems that President Trump prefers to build individual relationships with foreign leaders and thus it would help PM Modi to put the building blocks of such a relationship in place during this visit,” Manchanda said.
Arun Agrawal, professor of natural resources and environment, at the University of Michigan said India’s ambitious moves in the renewable energy sector mark its emergence as a major global player in solar and wind. “Those who care about climate change and sustainability will be excited about Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US. India’s future plans to advance on electric cars and pursue greater sustainability will require digital innovations and partnerships,” Agrawal said.