Modi - Trump summit on June 26: How many fires will White House be fighting by then?

How many fires will Donald Trump’s White House be putting out when Prime Minister Modi comes visiting?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet Donald Trump on Monday June 26 - barely a week before America celebrates its 241st Independence Day. The announcement from the Indian side comes on a Monday morning when a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Trump by government entities has been filed by the attorney generals for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland - that’s Trump’s own backyard.

The Indian Embassy in Washington D.C confirmed that Modi will visit Washington DC on June 25-26, 2017 and talks will be pinned on "new direction for deeper bilateral engagement on issues of mutual interest and consolidation of multi-dimensional strategic partnership".

US arms supplies to India, temporary work visas, Indo-US collaboration on clean energy and fighting radical terror groups are all likely to figure high on the bucket list. Indian officials are hoping that Trump and Modi will hit it off in a face-to-face. The two leaders share a common love for social media and have so far spoken three times by phone.

Modi's first face to face with Donald Trump coming up June 26/ Reuters

Modi's first face to face with Donald Trump coming up June 26/ Reuters

It's no secret though that Trump's innermost circle has a generous amount of disdain for the foreign policies of previous administrations and increasingly for the global institutional framework that's been handed down.

On his most recent foreign trip to Arabia, Trump sealed a $110bn deal of Saudi spending on American arms and military with a promise not to “lecture” the Arab monarchs on how they govern - a signal that his favorite style of statecraft is similar to his recent minimum-fuss method of licensing the Trump name in his property deals.

Of the two days that Modi is in Washington DC, June 25 is a Sunday and Donald Trump has so far spent at least 50 per cent of his weekends in one of his various gold plated Trump Inc. properties, his distaste for Washington DC is underlined in several ways. Trump's weekends at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ are becoming more common now that summer is officially here in the US. If Trump is not in DC on the day Modi arrives, it's just Trump doing what he does best - busting Presidential norms.

Modi has visited the U.S. three times since he took office in 2014. The last time was in June 2016, when he addressed Congress and described the U.S. as an "indispensable partner."

Trump, all lawyered up to fend off cases on multiple fronts, is more embattled than Barack Obama ever was at any jucture in his two terms as President.

Even if you set aside the political differences, the legislative mess that Trump is in is in stark contrast to how Modi has navigated an often treacherous path to legislative victories. Nearly half of Trump’s first year in office is over and he still does not have a single major legislative achievement to show for it.

For now, the fate of Trump’s big bang agenda - repealing Obamacare and tax overhaul - remain in limbo.

In the US Senate, Republicans have a razor thin 52-48 majority - a number ripe for political brinksmanship and little movement forward.

Trump narrowly escaped the Comey testimony and now mired in a new pickle. He is facing allegations that he is violating the US Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House.

The attorney generals of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump, alleging he violated the Constitution by improperly retaining ties to his sprawling global business empire and by accepting foreign payments while in office.

Maryland and Washington DC are neighbouring states and wear their left leaning credentials with pride on Planet Trump.

The case is focused on allegations that Trump's real estate and business holdings violate a little-known emoluments clause of the Constitution which bars the president and other government employees from accepting foreign gifts and payments without congressional approval.

The last time Modi was in the US was the second time in two years and the seventh meeting between the Indian PM and Barack Obama. From when Modi took power in 2014 till Obama left office, he forged a political relationship with President Obama that came to be known in gushing media commentary for its apparent “warmth”, dotted by many visual cues of Modi breaking protocol to hug Obama, call him “Barack” and so on. Not long ago, Trump on the campaign trail said India and the US are best friends. Taken together, India and the US, the world's two largest democracies, are home to 1.6 billion people.

India’s prime minister, who is marking three years in office this summer will arrive on a far stronger political wicket than Trump will likely be for the rest of the year at least. Modi is riding a wave of celebration following a string of thumping political victories in India’s most populous state and local body elections in capital city New Delhi and is fresh from a four nation trip of Europe and Russia soon after the Trump-Merkel public spat. Germany and India heaped praise upon each other soon after Chancellor Angela Merkel's publicly aired doubts about Germany's ties with the United States.

Will the Modi Trump meeting avoid the unpredictable hazards now associated with Trump's foreign relations?

Most likely yes, say at least two leading foreign policy experts we spoke to - Alyssa Ayres and Daniel Twining.

"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", says Twining, Asia chief of the German Marshall Fund of the US.

FP Resources: Indo-US agreements ahead of Modi's US visit in June 2016

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2017 03:32 AM

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