Narendra Modi-Donald Trump meeting at White House: It is hard to predict anything about US President Donald Trump. Recently, he had shocked India and the rest of the world by claiming that New Delhi received billions of dollars for signing Paris Climate accord. As Modi meets Trump for the first time, we cannot be assured of anything but surprise. Trump is unpredictable. On Twitter, he is known for speaking out his mind, even if it doesn’t sound politically correct. In contrast, PM Modi’s words are well calculated.
Despite so-called similarities in their working style, Modi-Trump meeting would bring the clash in their personalities to the fore. For Modi lives an ascetic life, Trump is flamboyant. How well Trump’s self-proclaimed “true” friendship with India would roll out will depend on how they manage to build a rapport, despite having different personal styles. As the New York Times points out in an article: “This week’s meeting could rest mostly on personal rapport. The two men may seem to have a lot in common, but Mr. Modi’s asceticism stands in stark contrast to Mr. Trump’s flamboyant style.”
In a first, Trump has invited Modi to White House for dinner. This underscores the importance he assigns to “friend” Modi. Before the dinner, however, both leaders will address reporters and also answer one question selected in advance. Will they select the tough question media in both countries are asking their respective leaders? We can expect a no here, but it will be interesting if they do select a tough question each.
Besides, President Trump needs to clear his stand on many issues that concern India to take the bilateral ties to the next level. Just signing defence deals may not make India-US true friends. Trump needs to answer India’s concerns on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the US assistance to the Islamic country, Chinese expansion plans in South Asia as well as on issues like attacks on Indians in the US, H1B Visa etc.
Last time when PM Modi visited the US, he had a self-assured host in then President Barack Obama. There was not much expectation from the PM in advance back home and he received thunderous applaud from members in the US Congress. This time, however, the host is difficult, unpredictable and there are high hopes of the Indian industry and security establishment. The night can lead to anywhere.