Monday, Apr 06, 2020 | Last Update : 10:00 PM IST

Trade pact off, no clear agenda for Trump visit

Published : Feb 22, 2020, 3:02 am IST
Updated : Feb 22, 2020, 3:02 am IST

With the US leader up for re-election in November, an agreement can only be visualised after that if he wins.

US president Donald Trump
 US president Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump hadn’t yielded to India’s request to be the Republic Day chief guest this year despite the great show of friendship at the “Howdy Modi” tamasha in Houston in September, organised with the joint efforts of Hindutva groups in the US and the Indian embassy in Washington.

India will now fete the US leader in Ahmedabad on Monday as he begins a two-day India visit, and will be given a reception at a “Namaste Trump” rally at the city’s Motera Stadium, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will naturally be at hand to show off his friendship with the US President.

If it was Indians who essentially put up the show in Texas to create the impression of great chemistry between Mr Modi and Mr Trump, it will again be Indians putting their best foot forward to massage the US leader’s ego in Ahmedabad.

That shows how crazily active India has been to first placate him — in 2017 he denounced India as “tariff king” — and then cultivate him. However, in order not to lose focus, President Trump, who is also the most transactional American leader imaginable, proclaims personal friendship of a very high order — whatever that may mean — with Pakistan PM Imran Khan and China’s supremo Xi Jinping.

It’s interesting nevertheless that Mr Trump will be in India on a standalone visit, meaning he won’t be covering any other nation in the region on this trip. Ordinarily, this will be a signal honour if anticipated agreements that brought the two nations closer were on the anvil. Curiously, this appears to be lacking. Both sides made it clear there is going to be no agreement on trade now. With the US leader up for re-election in November, an agreement can only be visualised after that if he wins.

Under Mr Modi’s stewardship, India and America are almost as close as India and the Soviet Union were in another era. In 2018, we signed COMCASA (communications compatibility and security agreement), thus completing three of the four “foundational” military agreements before the US takes any country into its bosom. This means a close politico-military nexus with America has been established. The proximity is such that India will now place a liaison officer with US forces in Bahrain, from where the US military commands the Gulf, and the US CentCom and AfriCom. These arrangements were reached in December in Washington. The previous year India was placed by the US in a very special military trade category which makes it eligible to buy 90 per cent of all exportable US military equipment without licence. Only Japan and South Korea are in this special category. The firm American embrace means India will be firmly allied with Washington, with other relationships having less of a meaning.

In the light of all this, the presidential visit will probably be a mutually beneficial public relations exercise for Mr Modi and Mr Trump. The PM’s second term has been deeply controversial, mostly due to Kashmir, CAA, and other Hindutva-related measures, while the President could do with Indian-American votes in November.

Tags: donald trump