The much awaited meeting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Donald Trump during the former’s visit to the White House finally saw clarity emerge in the bilateral relations. The unpredictability of the Trump administration in the way it deals with the country’s foreign affairs had cast a shadow of doubt on whether US-India relations can be given a positive direction. But the decision of the US State Department to designate Syed Salahuddin, the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” set the tone for the meet.
In the joint statement that was released, the stress was on “shared goals and values” giving a clear indication that Trump will not deviate from the course taken by his predecessors. Even though din surrounding the leadership role that the US should play in the new global order has receded replacing it with more talks on inward looking policies, what was on display was a much more mature approach to foreign policy. It took into consideration the fact that in a multi-polar world, taking stands and forming inter-linkages with nations are of utmost importance. That also explains the common ground that India and US found in the fight against terrorism.
The mention of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan made the position of US clear in its support to India. The unequivocal endorsement by the US of Pakistan fuelling the Kashmiri separatism will help India strengthen its case against Pakistan on global platforms. It will also give both India and US an opportunity to relook at their policies vis-à-vis South Asia and strategically collaborate on more fronts.
When it comes to foreign policy, China remains the sticking point for both the nations. Though Trump has been silent on carrying forward Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” policy, his support to India’s objection to China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative passing through the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir has proved that for the US, India is still very important in maintaining the balance of power in the region. The statement called on to the other nations in the region to adhere to the principles of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” while “bolstering regional economic connectivity through the transparent development of infrastructure”. This move is particularly significant considering that the Trump administration sent a high-level delegation to the inaugural of the Belt and Road Forum.
The consensus that has emerged on the foreign policy front is commendable. But the silence of the joint statement on issues like climate change and clean energy is a reminder that both the nations will have to work harder to find a common ground. There are also other pressing issues like the trade deficit and the new restrictions on H1-B visas. If a cue can be taken from the recently concluded meet, it will be safe to conclude that both the countries will be able to slowly and steadily iron out the differences and set the ties on a positive course.