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Wager on Modi visiting troubled Trump is still a yes

“It’s still on”, sources close to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plans for a US tour later in June tell us in response to a question on whether it’s still June 26-28 as the buzz suggests.

“But you know how things are - it’s very unpredictable; everything is on as of now but we’re watching what happens next week”, the source says suggesting that how the Comey testimony plays out and how damaging it may be to the Trump presidency could cast a shadow on the optics if not the dates.

Firstpost called out the dates for Modi’s trip last month; the changing circumstances are now narrated below.

The hottest ticket in town is the coming James Comey testimony before the Senate this Thursday which is taking on Monica Lewinsky-esque proportions in terms of frenzied media prep and sheer excitement.

As Comey mania takes over Washington D.C, the Trump-Modi summit is still officially on/ Reuters

As Comey mania takes over Washington D.C, the Trump-Modi summit is still officially on/ Reuters

Yet, experts on the US-Asia beat are poring the possible fallout of Trump’s Paris deal pullout on the Modi-Trump summit while locally, that topic has already fallen off the charts or been factored in as a 'Trump-the-campaigner' gambit hoping to keep the Trump voters warm until the mid-term elections next Fall.

Just for political context, this is what will be up for contest in the 2018 mid term elections: All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate. For now, according to multiple metrics, the Democrats are in a stronger position in a midterm election cycle than any party that's been out of power in the US House since 1942.

After a round of Sunday golf, Trump’s final word on the Paris decision came with his signature brand of humor: "They can’t even get the weather report right, how will they get that (climate deal) right?"

On the other side, while Modi is meeting Trump for the first time, he is no rookie to American politics or Indo-US summit meetings. Until now, Modi has cruised through multiple summit meetings with humour and grace rather than needless rancour over shifting political goalposts.

In fact, influential voices in American foreign policy are arguing forcefully that Trump’s decisions be seen in a wider arc of asserting American hard power and may even bequeath to the next President a more powerful America.

Until now, none of Modi’s public statements have been reactionary on the Donald Trump led US pullout from the climate deal. What the Indian PM has done instead is clear messaging on India’s role along with partners who are playing ball —"The Paris agreement is the common heritage of the world. It is a gift that this generation can give,” he said. Pundits may read some implicit grouchiness into a coming Modi-Trump summit but the political class which actually fights and wins elections knows better than to be surprised by Trump’s move which is less about climate and more about protecting his vote bank - a move championed by Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

Most of America’s greenhouse gases that trap heat within and hurt the planet don’t come from farm country in the middle of America where Trump voters live. In a line, Trump’s climate pull out is 100% politics and it also does not affect how (most of) the American states fare on climate.

The mid term elections are coming soon, Donald Trump did not want to go all green and potentially turn away his rural audience.

“In a world in which power is increasingly fragmented, among states and within them, climate leadership will not come from national governments and their bureaucracies but from cities and states that are at the pioneering edge of championing green technologies and industries. Already, a number of mayors and governors in America have pledged to continue their programs to reduce carbon emissions in the spirit of the Paris accords”, says Daniel Twining, Asia chief and Director of The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Rants against Trump’s line on climate change are the easiest to come by; essays on the case for Trump’s decision or making sense of his climate suprise are few and far in between. A sophisticated reading of the arguments tell us why India or for that matter any other signatory to the Paris climate deal need to wear a scowl during a forthcoming meeting with Donald Trump.

Two essays by leading foreign policy analysts in the US drive home the point the week ahead of the high drama Comey testimony. Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council Mathew Kroening and Daniel Twining go against the tidal wave of anti-Trump noise to sew up a textured quilt of counter narratives.

Mathew Kroening’s bold essay on Donald Trump’s foreign policy - “The Right People, The Right Positions” - is virtually a rebuttal of the entire special issue of Foreign Affairs titled rather unambigiously - “Present at the destruction - Trump in practice”.

“In every region of the world important to the United States, the last eight years have left emboldended enemies, nervous allies, and increasing disorder. Obama bequeathed to his successor an entire world in disarray”, writes Kroenig.

Contrary to the ‘too cozy with Russia’ line we hear, Trump has appointed Putin critics to major national security posts - notably Brookings scholar Fiona Hilla as Senior director for Russia and Europe at the NSC.

“Nonsense” is Daniel Twining’s assessment of opinion that Trump's withdrawal from the climate change pact signals the end of of the U.S.-led liberal world order.

“True, that order depends on global rule-making and multilateral cooperation, both of which are out of favor with this American president. But underpinning the rules-based order is American hard power, of which he is unequivocally in favor.”

Twining explains how Trump’s ease of withdrawal has more to do with Obama — “...the fact that one man could make a decision to pull out of a major international agreement attests to the mistake President Barack Obama made in failing to send the Paris Agreement to the Senate for ratification as an international treaty.

“This is no grand alliance and never will be”, says Ashok Malik of Observer Research Foundation on the new “arrangements” that India will tap into.

“It also fits into an Indian approach that will look to tap American institutions others than the White House and administration in Washington DC. For instance on climate change and adherence to Paris agreement benchmarks, India will find common ground with individual American state and city economies and leaderships, even if Mr. Trump himself is not interested”, writes Malik.

Updated Date: Jun 06, 2017 02:41 AM

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