June 26-28? Word is out that those are the dates sewn up for the Narendra Modi-Donald Trump summit but there’s no official stamp on it yet.
Whether that meeting happens in June or later, 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.
In India, Prime Minister 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.
In the U.S., Donald Trump is lawyering up to face off against the Robert Mueller-led probe into alleged Russian collusion in Trump’s 2016 campaign, the news media has launched its most co-ordinated assault on all of Trump’s missteps since he became President, betting markets are putting a 40% chance on Trump exit before a full term and there are the first signs emerging that his most loyal voter base is abandoning him.
When the two do meet, H1B visas, taking India’s tag as major defence partner logically forward and Indo-US role in Afghanistan will likely be on the bucket list, says Alyssa Ayres at CFR who specialises in US policy towards the India, Pakistan and South Asia region.
“H1B is a high priority issue. Honestly, there have been complaints on both sides for years. It’s been ongoing and I will be surprised if this does not figure in the talks between the two leaders”, says Ayres.
The oil and gas business may figure too - it’s right up there on Trump’s to-do list and it resonates perfectly with Trump’s white working class voters - the promise to “embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans.”
“We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well”, says the White House on its ‘America First’ energy policy.
Despite the procession of world leaders at the White House and prep work that is underway on both sides, the deepening tumult in the Trump White House has added a new metric to the travel plan - what if…?
In barely a week before he left for his first foreign tour, Trump fired the FBI chief, the media got after him, the Department of Justice appointed a special counsel and Watergate plus Nixon have become the new small talk.
Yet, in parallel, the Trump-led bureaucracy lurches forward oblivious of the localised commotion in the White House. For some Trump appointees, the bedlam works well because it buries the Trumpism that they are furthering into single column mentions in newspapers which are scouring the land for Mueller related leaks.
“It would be nice to see some dates being announced, some official confirmation”, Indo-US foreign policy experts in Washington D.C are saying.
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. That was well before he became President and battling the aftermath of the Access Hollywood tapes where he was heard boasting that he could grab women and molest them.
This isn’t the first time Trump is battling bad press, he’s done it before and the magnitude of what he achieved is there for the world to see. There’s no telling what he can do next.
Also special investigations take time to play out. June is a lot more benign for Trump than what Fall may bring. The Bill Clinton investigation took three full months to become potentially devastating.
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Updated Date: May 26, 2017 01:34:35 IST