Narendra Modi to meet Donald Trump at White House on 26 June: Here's what's likely to be on the agenda

When Donald Trump first entered the White House as president of the United States, India-US ties seemed to continue down the well-established path set up during President Barack Obama’s tenure as President. According to the BBC, early in January Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted warmly about his talks with President Trump. At the same time, Trump was said to have found in India a “true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world.” Both leaders were confident about further developing bilateral ties between India and the US.

However, things seem to have deteriorated from that initial stage, with Trump’s derogatory remarks about India in his speech about the Paris climate change accord signaling a potential shift in the long well-established ties between these two nations. As he withdrew from the Paris accord, Trump directly attacked India as extracting “billions and billions and billions” in foreign aid as a requirement for being a part of the treaty. This direct attack has rankled support for Trump amid his Indian supporters and could weaken ties between the nations.

Nevertheless, Modi is slated to visit The White House on 26 June — his first visit to the US since Trump became president — ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg in July this year.

However, not much seems to have been decided about Modi’s visit. Here is what we know.

File images of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. AFP and PTI

File images of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. AFP and PTI

According to The Times of India, this visit promises to be a “no frills” one, including only a one-on-one interaction with Trump and a few other business engagements with US CEOs. This is in stark contrast with his September 2014 visit to the USA where he addressed large crowds in Madison Square Garden or his big address to a joint meeting of the US Congress in June 2016.

The article cites a few possible reasons for this. First, Trump’s dealings with foreign world leaders have been notorious for their “short meetings and modest outcomes.” Given Trump’s mercurial personality and unpredictable policy changes, the atmosphere in DC is unstable and this will undoubtedly affect Modi’s visit and decisions. Indeed, the visit seems more focused on “getting to know” the new occupant of the White House and bilateral policy outcomes are in the background.

At the same time, some issues will definitely be touched upon, one of which is that of the H1B visas. According to this piece in Hindustan Times, External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj is concerned about Trump’s potential decision to implement stricter rules for H1B visas. Trump has previously signed an executive order that demanded that H1B visas be granted to only the “most-skilled and highest-paid” applicants (and not through a random lottery). Moreover, he declared that they must never been used to replace Americans from jobs. This “America first” move could potentially reduce the number of visas granted to India workers.

Another issue most likely to be discussed during Modi’s visit is the India-US counter-terror partnership. This is the topic that seems to have remain unchanged from Modi and Trump’s initial talks back in January when the two leaders “resolved that the United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism,” writes Reuters. When dealing with cross-border terror, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region will be under discussion, according to this piece in The Economic Times. Moreover, “Defence partnership has been a key pillar of Indo-US ties in the past decade,” writes the author. Presently, the US has been moving towards increasing India's purchases of American defence systems and the joint production of defence vehicles and weapons under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) will be another issue another discussion it seems.

Finally, Trump’s administration has been concerned with the increasing US trade deficit and has named India as one of the trading partners with which US has a “significant” goods trade deficit. Trade and Defence, intertwined, will thus form a part of Trump and Modi’s discussions during this visit.

Finally, The Indian Express, quoting Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, writes that defining the India-US ties as a “partnership” will be key to positive developments in the relationship between these two nations. In other words, both nations contribute equally and positively to each other and must continue to do going forward.

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2017 09:14 AM

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