President Donald Trump showered praise on India and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a joint appearance following bilateral talks in Washington, D.C. June 26. He also emphasized that priority areas of cooperation included expanded trade, removal of trade barriers, economic cooperation to create jobs, fighting terrorism, and strengthening the defense and strategic partnership around the world including Afghanistan, North Korea and in the Indian Ocean.
While new initiatives are yet to be announced on paper, the two leaders gave separate statements on the frank discussions the delegations had on trade and strategic security issues.
“I have always had admiration for India and its people,” Trump said, adding it was a “very, very incredible nation,’ and that as promised during his presidential campaign, “That is exactly what you have — a true friend,” in him, said Trump.
“After today’s meetings … relations between the United States and India have never been stronger before,” said President Trump on the Rose Garden of the White House. Quipping about how he and Prime Minister Modi were “World leaders in social media,” Trump said he looks forward to working with Modi “to create jobs for our people,” emphasizing that he expected India to remove barriers to trade with the U.S. and balance the current advantage India held.
He complimented Modi for several initiatives including bringing in a tax overhaul, referring to the GST which begins to be implemented in India in two weeks; building India’s infrastructure; and fighting corruption, which President Trump said, “is a grave threat to democracy.”
He thanked Modi was inviting his daughter Ivanka to lead a delegation to the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in India. “And she has accepted,” Trump said about his daughter’s response to the invitation.
Both the leaders, Trump said, “are determined to destroy terrorism. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump declared. “The future of our relations have never looked better,” he concluded.
Modi, shook hands after Trump’s speech and wrapped his arms around Trump in a hug which was repeated later.
Speaking in Hindi peppered with English phrases, Modi said the bilateral talks had been significant in every way because they were based on mutual trust and values, and because both countries are “global engines of growth.”
Protecting citizens from terrorism, Modi said, was a primary concern for both leaders. His comments came soon after the State Department announced it has designated a Kashmiri militant, Mohammad Yusuf Shah, also known as Syed Salahuddin, a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” a step perceived as a win for New Delhi by Indian media.
Salahuddin, is the senior leader of the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, who in September, 2016, vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces.” That Washington chose this particular moment to make that announcement may indicate it is reviewing Pakistan’s role in the region, and prodding it to move more decisively against terror elements within its borders.
“Today, we frankly discussed every aspect” of the U.S.-India relationship in the bilateral meeting, Modi said, adding, “We want a bilateral architecture which will take us to new heights.”
Modi said he was convinced that Trump’s vision of America First and Making America Great synced well with his own vision of India First. “It is only in a strong America that India’s interests lie,” the Indian leader said.
“Today we had a very serious discussion on terrorism, extremism and radicalization,” Modi said. “Fighting terrorism and ending terrorism will be a primary aspect of our relationship.”
Some new initiatives on counter-terrorism are expected to be announced, according to the White House.
The two sides also discussed regional issues, particularly instability in Afghanistan, “which is of great concern to us,” Modi said, and stressed New Delhi would cooperate and consult with the U.S. on a regular basis on this issue.
On defense and security cooperation, Modi indicated India’s interest in acquiring technologies, defense cooperation and manufacturing. A mutually beneficial strategic partnership would bring success to both nations, Modi said and promised to be a “driven, determined and decisive partner,” of the United States.