On the #ModiTrump beat in New Delhi and Washington D.C, word is that Modi may avoid wading into deeply controversial territory when he meets US President Trump for the very first time June 26 and instead focus on establishing a working rapport that India can build on.
Will Pakistan be on the table? “Absolutely”, says Aparna Pande, Director of Hudson Institute's Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia.
Pande spoke to Firstpost on the upcoming Modi-Trump summit. Her book 'Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's foreign policy' is out this summer.
Here's the link to the Facebook Live chat; the transcript of the interview, edited for brevity, is below. Follow the #ModiTrump summit on the Firstpost website and on our social pages.
Firstpost: What will success of a #ModiTrump summit look like ?
Aparna Pande: The fact that they’re meeting within the first six months of Trump taking over itself is a good place to start. That’s success. The PM (Modi) wanted to come in the year’s first half and he was keen that it’s not a sideshow or a part of a larger meeting where he first meets Trump. This is a one-on-one, it’s just the two of them, not a UNSC or G20. Next point - what can each leader give the other? They are both leaders who came to power primarily promising economic growth, employment, jobs and restoring their country’s position on the global area. So if both sides could offer each other job creation and investment that would be great although that would be difficult to achive in a very first meeting. Meeting of minds, photo ops and then seeing in the next few months how that can be taken forward.
FP: The Abe meeting is being talked of as some kind of touchstone, a pattern that Trump’s meetings with Asian leaders has generally gone well…
AP: We must remember that India is not an ‘ally’ of the United States. Japan, in contrast, has been a very old ally, from post-World War 2. Germany is also an ally - those relationships with the US differ. India has always stayed away from the ‘ally’ label. Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump do get along okay. They have spoken a few times. A lot of Mr. Modi’s supporters in the United States diaspora voted for Mr. Trump and he in turn appealed to them to do so ahead of the elections. There is a feeling that the other person (Modi) has been good for them. We are not China where we are taking away Americans’ jobs or dumping steel. We are relatively lucky in that sense. We have good economic and security co-operation. Post Independence, Indian leaders decided that we won’t be in any alliance. For India, alliance means military - not economy, counter-terrorism. India has refused to be any other country’s military alliance. United States - we have always said we are your partner, we are your friend whereas Japan is part of formal treaties with the US.
FP: Whether the H1B comes up in the summit meeting or not, it's heading for a reset, the backlash is not ebbing...
AP: This has been a long-time problem. PM Modi will certainly discuss it with Trump either this time or the next. It did not matter traditionally but this time it does. In the 60s and 70s, it did not matter what the diaspora was up to, but now we do. The BJP has strong presence among the diaspora here. Full disclosure - I was on an H1B a few years ago. Both sides have benefitted over the years. What we need is an updating or upgrading of the visa system. What matters is not the visa but the way it has been portrayed - as a domestic issue, it impacts the vote base. Mr Modi understands this very well - how promises during an election plays to the vote bank sentiment.
FP: Par for the course - so Pakistan will be on the menu?
AP: Yes, certainly. It will come up. Pakistan has been on the table for at least two or two and a half decades. The neighbourhood is also discussed which means Bangladesh, Sri Lanka but especially Pakistan because of India’s concerns about cross border terror, because of Afghanistan. US’ policy towards Afghanistan is currently under review so India will want to know what the United States is planning aside from additional troops etc. By default, what is it (US) planning for Pakistan? Pakistan is also interested. What has happened is that the majority of people in this town believe that the US policy towards Pakistan must change from just providing aid…Question is what will change? Currently, there’s no big ticket sell items to Pakistan. Only question is that if US decides to send more troops into Afghanistan, what is it going to ask of Pakistan ( and India).
FP: Is there talk of an arms deal in the offing?
AP: Yes…the economic dimension will increase…US India has been an economic -strategic partnership. The economic angle will gain prominence under this President. What will you give me? What will you buy? But there’s a limit to what India can do without hurting its own say, Make In India program or its own interests. So, no big ticket items will come out, it’s symbolic. India will push the US to pressurise Pakistan back off on terror.
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Updated Date: Jun 16, 2017 23:30 PM