Narendra Modi-Donald Trump meet: US president's Paris rant casts shadow on India-US ties

You don’t have to be an armchair pundit or an expert in the field of political science to know that the Narendra Modi - Donald Trump meeting on 26 June is just a courtesy call.

File image of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump.

File image of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump.

It won't do much to soothe India's hurt after the US president took to the White House Rose Garden to accuse India of demanding 'billions and billions' of dollars in the name of foreign aid to stay in the Paris Agreement.

He even alleged that the Paris climate change deal allowed India to double its coal output while the US received nothing.

At first, we thought Trump and Modi were two peas in a pod: Keeping unpopular promises, fighting terrorism, improving the lot of the poor and praising each other.

Trump called India: "A true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world.”

Things started to go pear shaped after Trump made some snide remarks — Indians 'stealing' American jobs, cracking down on all centres, imposing a punitive tax on companies that went abroad to take advantage of cheap labour — meanwhile, Modi was busy expounding the virtues of 'Make in India'.

So one could argue that Modi could hardly be peeved with Trump echoing the same sentiment: charity begins at home.

Then came hostility towards Indians through the curb on the H1B and F1 visas. The friendship soured.

The US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement only further heightened the differences between Modi and Trump.

Despite the gush of clichés about the India-US relationship that are rattled off ad nauseum and the summit talks, which last about an hour and are slated as 'crucial' and 'vital', the two leaders who once had much in common are now at an impasse.

Mainly because they're perceived very differently in their respective countries.

Modi is on a roll. He is the man of the moment. For Trump, the barbarians are at the gate, battering ram in tow. They're just waiting to pour in.

Now, both Trump and Modi are xenophobes. The key difference: Trump is unambiguous in his xenophobia, while Modi is low-key and does not make 'incendiary' remarks which allow others to create rifts, be they religious or casteist, which makes him appear statesmanlike.

As Modi's chariot charges forward, his indiscretions, unlike those of Caesar, bite the dust.

Indians are, by nature, forgiving. We almost idolise Modi.

Trump is a piece of fluff from the navel of the United States that is seeing the harsh light of day.

If anything, Trump would be envious of Modi's popularity. They campaigned with much the same intent: Anti-establishment, pro-poor, breaking down the conventional, tearing into tradition and promising a clean sweep.

So, when they meet, they're going to be unfailingly polite. But not hearty. Just check out the agenda.

According to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, the two leaders are expected to set forth a "common vision" on expanding the India-US partnership.

He cited "fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and reforms and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region" as shared priorities.

"US-India trade has grown six-fold since 2000, from $19 billion to $115 billion in 2016," Spicer said.

Meanwhile, according to the external affairs ministry, the two leaders' discussions will "provide a new direction for deeper bilateral engagement."

If you're looking for some good, old-fashioned diplomaspeak, that's a tough one to beat.

If anything, this meeting will bring to the fore the purchase of military hardware, especially aircraft.

Trump might do well to ask Modi: "How do you get them all on your side?"

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2017 19:31 PM

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