Following their first standalone bilateral meeting since 2017, US President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday that “Indo-US ties have never been better than this” and pledged “very big” trade deals in manufacturing and 5G between the two countries. This comes in the backdrop of the Indo-US trade war and marks a complete about-turn from his fulminations on Thursday against India’s “high tariffs”.
However, the US delegation accompanying Trump to Osaka confirmed that the president’s conversations with Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe were “productive at the very least”.
Trump congratulated Modi on his sweeping election victory, saying, “You did indeed have a landslide election and that was a great election. You have done a great job in pulling everyone together. Many factions were fighting, I remember when you first took over and we were talking, they were fighting with each other and now they are loving you;” this was contradiction to his own State Department’s report tracing the rise of intolerant nationalism and virulent mob violence in Modi’s India, last week.
On the table: 5G, oil, stability
Ivanka Trump, who advises her father on job creation and economic empowerment, published a video on Twitter saying 5G technology and its security implications were some of the critical issues that the leaders discussed in their bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale later told reporters there were four key issues on the table—Iran, 5G, trade, and defence relations.
Gokhale said Modi outlined India’s potential role in setting the global trend for 5G technology, with a projected billion users and as the second largest market in the world. He is said to have pointed out the need to collaborate “to see how we can leverage this” using the vast resource pool of IT developers and policies such as ‘Make in India’.
Besides stressing the need to maintain peace and stability in the subcontinent, Modi also made a case for India’s energy concerns.
He reminded Trump that even though Iran supplied nearly 11% of its needs, it reduced oil imports on US bidding, even if it hurt the Indian economy.
To this and the recent imposition of import duties on 28 US items, Trump responded it “had already happened and that we should now look forward and see how we can resolve some of the issues”.
The two leaders have since directed their officials to carry discussions forward to address irritants over trade, including the recent withdrawal of GSP (preferential trade status), sanctions on importing Iranian oil, and retaliatory trade tariffs on US imports.
What else has the US been up to?
Announcing he was on the cusp of a historic deal, Trump also surprised the G20 gathering and the world by saying he had agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to restart trade talks and promised to develop a strategic partnership with Beijing.
Furthermore, he said he would hold off on new tariffs and allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to again buy US products. However, Trump had conveyed to Modi that the US wants New Delhi to shut out Chinese company Huawei over security concerns, just as India is gearing up for 5G trials.
Turkish president Recep Erdogan was also happy to inform reporters that the US would not impose sanctions on Turkey for buying Russian-made S-400 missiles, a longstanding issue for a nation also barred recently from importing oil from another US rival, Iran.
The US President reportedly raised the issue of Jamal Khashoggi’s death during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince MBS. Trump has notably offered to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); DPRK has officially responded that it is a “very interesting suggestion”, thereby raising prospects for a third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.
The G20 is an international leaders’ forum comprising 19 countries and the EU. Collectively, the grouping represents more than 80% of the world’s economic output and two-thirds of its people. Its primary aim is to promote international financial stability.
What happened at BRICS meeting?
Meanwhile, Modi addressed an informal BRICS leaders’ meeting on the sidelines of Osaka, where they talked about ways to bolster ties between their nations.
Modi presented his five-pronged agenda to address common challenges facing the world, including protectionism, unilateralism and unlawful sanctions.
“Today, I will focus on three major challenges. First, the recession and uncertainty in the world economy. Unilateral decisions and rivalries are overshadowing rule-based multilateral international trade systems,” Modi said, stressing the need for coordination between the BRICS countries.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, who made headlines making a case against liberalism, emphasised that India, China, and Russia were in agreement over the need to rely on international law, respect national sovereignty, and refrain from interference in internal affairs of other nations.
He added that they held meetings with foreign ministers and top security officials to coordinate action against terrorism, drug trafficking, and other challenges.
Five-point approach to economic development
Modi on Friday said there was an immediate need to strengthen global financial organisations like the WTO to ensure energy security and curb terrorism.
Despite acknowledging that climate change is a global concern, he repeatedly referred to terrorism as the biggest threat to humanity, economic progress, and social security.
Modi said making development and progress inclusive and sustainable is another major challenge.
Rapidly changing technologies such as digitisation also necessitate that development is made in the right direction to reduce inequality and boost empowerment, the PM said.
According to Modi, “the lack of resources is reflected in the fact that there is a shortage of an estimated $1.3 trillion in investment for emerging market economies.”
To address this, BRICS’s multilateral New Development Bank must give priority to investments in physical and social infrastructure and renewable energy programmes of member nations.
At the same time, while batting for holistic and continuous economic development and an end to energy injustice, Modi advocated for a regular supply of resources like oil and gas at low prices.
Meanwhile G20 countries have increased their annual spending on coal-fired plants to $64 billion, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute. It also says G20 nations have tripled subsidies for the industry in recent years, despite growing pleas to crack down on fossil fuels.
As climate change continues to exacerbate the frequency and ferocity of climate disasters, the PM invited other member countries to join India’s Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure that was formed to develop appropriate infrastructure in developing countries to better tackle natural calamities.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius.
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