By Mythili Mishra
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hosted by the American President Donald J. Trump on 26th June. The two nations released a joint statement delineating common goals such as combating terrorism, increasing trade and strengthening energy linkages.
With the ‘rising dragon’ and an increase in aggression on the Indian border, India sees China and Pakistan as prolonged threats. Thus, Modi may have found a sympathiser in the White House who is also critical of these states. Trump sees China as a global trade manipulator and major challenge to America’s global dominance. Also, distancing itself from Pakistan, the American state is seen as reorienting itself and edging towards India. While notable differences exist between Indian and American foreign policy, they are hardly at loggerheads.
China, North Korea, and the nuclear dilemma
The leaders of the two nations strongly condemned continuous provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). This was a first in the Indian foreign policy towards North Korea. Traditionally, India has not been vocal about North Korea (DPRK). It has maintained trade and quasi-political ties.
India has been careful to not condemn North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons since India herself has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and affirms its right to possess nuclear weapons, despite the West’s retaliation. A change in strategy seems to be on the cards wherein increased ties with the U.S. might elevate India as a state ‘worthy’ of possessing nuclear weapons, as opposed to the ‘rogue’ states of North Korea and Pakistan.
The United States, in return, expressed strong support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (an elite group of nations which controls the trade of nuclear materials, equipment and technology—where India’s claim is currently being blocked by China) and permanent membership of the Security Council.
Trade and climate—acknowledged one, ignored another
The countries also pledged to deepen cooperation on security matters, including information sharing and trade of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems—which are predatory guardian drones and can be a strategic asset. Trump said that he was “pleased” that India buys US defence products. Both the leaders have been focusing on the national economy, with America looking inwards—buying and hiring American—and India’s “Make in India” project. However, as per convention, free and increased trade was proclaimed by both sides.
While the states avowed sustained cooperation on energy, climate change was notably off the agenda. This follows the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015. One of the reasons cited by Trump for this drastic step was that while “India can double their coal production”, the U.S. would have to get rid of its production. The Indian government has assured the global community of its commitment to the Paris Accord but kept it out of talks at the White House.
In a bid to counter terrorism
Terrorism was the primary issue on the agenda and the two nations are committed to strengthening cooperation against terrorist threats. While no mention of state support or facilitation of terrorism was made, the focus was pointedly on Pakistan under the umbrella of global terrorism.
Prior to the meeting, the US State Department moved to announce the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a designated global terrorist. This was welcomed by India as a gesture of friendship and future cooperation. Earlier, the Security Council’s attempts to recognise him as a global terrorist were blocked by China, Pakistan’s close ally. Thus, the Modi government may have found an ally in the Trump administration in its stand against Pakistan. While the infamous ‘Muslim ban’ did not ban Pakistanis from entering the United States, it proposed “extreme vetting”. As a result of this, there was a 40% decline in the provision of visas for Pakistani nationals after Trump assumed office.
What could this mean for Indo-US ties?
The Opposition in India was critical of the statement. It was seen as identifying “Islam and terrorism as one”, said CPI national secretary D. Raja. He also observed that India is playing second fiddle on the issue. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also agrees with this position, noting that there is a fundamental difference between how India and U.S. view border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.
With China opposing India to support Pakistan, two significant power blocs are emerging. The shifting alliances in world politics seem to have made China the new Soviet Union. India seems to have forgone its previous loyalty and is switching sides over to the US. Increased cooperation on security will drown out ‘minor tiffs’ on issues such as climate change or racism.
While the rest of the world condemns the actions of the Trump administration, India must engage with the hegemon. Otherwise, survival in the international sphere might be difficult.
Featured Image Credits: Mic
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