At least on the Indo-US experts’ circuit, the consensus on the Modi-Trump summit meeting on June 26 is bending towards a soft landing for the Indo-US relationship in a disquieting and angry political season.
Plan B exists - one look at the flight path of the Indian PM in the last few weeks speaks for itself, but if Trump and Modi hit it off, then Plan B can stay that way is the other dominant thought informing previews of the June 26 White House appointment.
As we continue reporting on the #ModiTrump beat, here is a curation of the leading ideas about the Indo US relationship on Planet Trump. We have spoken to leading think tankers and scholars over the last two weeks on the Modi-Trump meeting, Brookings has brought out a special paper ahead of the summit, Observer Research Foundation has published one too. Taken together, these are the opinions that will inform almost every preview on the Modi visit to the US. History, strategy, plainspeak, hedging, black swans - it’s all here.
“Merit in strategic patience”
“Invariably, after a year or so spent courting other global actors, the merits of investing in and developing the India partnership become obvious to every US president. There is merit in waiting: a stronger India is by itself a net positive for the United States as it finds itself stretched to capacity in Asia; and a US that emerges from its current political churn is bound to be a reliable partner as India stands up to defend a rules based order in this part of the world.”
- Sunjoy Joshi and Samir Saran in 'US and India - Balancing the rebalance'
“It's a 1991 moment once again”
“Where do I stand in your scheme of things? That’s what we need to know. Once that is clear, Modi can decide whether he wants to go say hello to Xi or give Putin a bear hug. It’s a 1991 moment for us. In a sense, the same thing is happening. With Trump, the whole equation that was built with George Bush and Obama is under question. If Trump gives us a reassurance that he’s on board, it’s fine but if he insists that this is a new America, then we have to have to revert to our backup plan which is why Modi has been travelling so much.”
- Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Media adviser to former Indian PM Manmohan Singh.
"Hedging against a more 'normal' America"
India must insure against the prospect of a more “normal” America, an imbalance of power in the Asia-Pacific, divergent counterterrorism priorities, and a relative vacuum in global governance. While in many instances U.S. power cannot be fully replaced or replicated, India will have little choice but to invest in relationships with other countries to achieve its desired outcomes, while more forcefully projecting its own influence and leadership.
Dhruva Jaishankar, in a Brookings report titled Indian and United States in the Trump Era
"Negative noise will be counterproductive”
“It’s their first meeting - most important would be the rapport they build and Modi must somehow find a way to project India’s view in the Asia Pacific region. I don’t think the negative noise in the background - H1B or on the Paris climate deal may come up in this meeting because and it will be counterproductive if it does. The US stance on this is well known. The gains from this meeting would most likely be in the security arena and the strategic aspect of the relationship. If Modi can convince trump to underscore the Indo-US relationship that already exists and get Trump on board, that would be an upside.”
- Seema Sirohi, Foreign Policy columnist, Washington D.C
"First meetings can turn out any way"
"The history of first meetings between Indian and American leaders is as old as our Republic itself. Jawaharlal Nehru came to the United States of America immediately after Independence and framed the visit as a journey, an exploration and education for himself. He had never been to the United States either. You learn about your counterparts, you learn about their world views, you learn to understand and appreciate their areas of interest there. To that extent, expecting concrete results to come out of such meetings may be a bit premature. Let me give you the example of Indira Gandhi meeting Ronald Reagan in 1982 after almost a decade of stagnation in US India relations. I'd say regression, actually. Reagan and Gandhi were polar opposites in their world views. It turned out to be a relaxed affair, they got along well. The Reagan administration had stepped up help to the Afghan Mujahideen through Pakistan, turning a blind eye towards the growing nuclear clout of Pakistan which was problematic for India. Yet the meeting still led to important stuff like a memorandum of understanding on tech co-operation. So a meeting that does not seem very promising at first can turn out either way."
- Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research
“What can each leader give the other?”
"The fact that they’re meeting within the first six months of Trump taking over itself is a good place to start. That’s success. The PM (Modi) wanted to come in the year’s first half and he was keen that it’s not a sideshow or a part of a larger meeting where he first meets Trump. This is a one-on-one, it’s just the two of them, not a UNSC or G20. Next point - what can each leader give the other? They are both leaders who came to power primarily promising economic growth, employment, jobs and restoring their country’s position on the global arena. So if both sides could offer each other job creation and investment that would be great although that would be difficult to achive in a very first meeting. Meeting of minds, photo ops and then seeing in the next few months how that can be taken forward.”
- Aparna Pande, Director, India Initiative, Hudson Institute, Washington DC
"Good meetings with Asian leaders so far"
"So I’m optimistic. Trump had a rocky set of meetings in Europe with traditional US allies. In contrast, he had very strong, very positive meetings with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, with Xi Jinping of China and I think Modi will be added to that list of strong Asian leaders who want to build a vibrant relationship with the US. Trump brought up India in one of the Presidential debates last Fall. He spoke of India in very positive terms, so I think he looks out at Asia and looks at these rising cultural powers. He looks at India and sees economic dynamism and great potential. Modi and Trump will have a lot to talk about in terms of their mutual scepticism of Chinese power, on what roles India and the US can play in the Middle East together and separately and how do you mutually grow each other’s economies. India is reducing carbon emissions and switching from dirty coal. India is actually a leader in renewable energy. India is doing that for India, not because of what the US is doing or not. Indian governments are going to continue doing what's good for India. One way for PM Modi to speak to President Trump about this is to talk about the innovation and economic opportunities to make the switch to wind, solar, hydro. Even if US is out of Paris (deal), India and the US will continue to collaborate on clean energy - you have to remember that India and US have a history here. They did that big civil nuclear agreement 10 years ago when I was working with the Bush administration…India suffers from these energy bottlenecks which are a big constraint on Indian growth. Nuclear may or may not be the solution. I suspect you need an ‘all of the above’ strategy for energy in India but I think we have been on this before and we will continue to be on even if the US is not part of Paris (climate deal), there are going to be huge opportunities for India and the US to collaborate on clean energy."
- Daniel Twining, Asia Director, German Marshall Fund of the US
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Published Date: Jun 19, 2017 11:06 pm | Updated Date: Jun 19, 2017 11:06 pm