Modi, Trump raise ties to ‘global partnership’

The Asian Age.  | Sridhar Kumaraswami

India, All India

Religious freedom discussed, but not CAA; both leaders urge Pak to act against terror.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump after their joint press statement in New Delhi Tuesday. (Photo: G.N. JHA)

New Delhi: Hours after detailed talks on all aspects of bilateral ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House here, when the two countries elevated their ties to “the level of a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership”. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday declined to discuss the controversy over India’s Citizenship (Amen-dment) Act and the violence rocking parts of Delhi, but told reporters he had discussed the issue of religious freedom with Mr Modi, including “specifically (the subject of) Muslims and Christians”. He added that India has “worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom” and that “this (religious freedom) is what he (Mr Modi) wants”. Addressing the Indian and American media at the US embassy in the evening, the US President said: “I don’t want to discuss that (CAA). I want to leave that to India, and hopefully they’re going to make the right decision for the people.” In a joint statement issued on Tuesday evening, that vindicated New Delhi’s concerns about cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, the two leaders also “called on Pakistan to ensure that no territory under its control is used to launch terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot”. In his remarks earlier at Hyderabad House, President Trump said the two countries have “expanded our defence cooperation with agreements for India to purchase more than $3 billion of advanced American military equipment, including Apache and MH-60 Romeo helicopters — the finest in the world”. Both sides also decided to begin negotiations for a “big trade agreement”.

Praising India and Mr Modi from whom he received a “powerful answer” about religious freedom and the presence of 200 million Indian Muslims in the country, President Trump — when asked about issues ranging from “hate crimes” in India to the violence now rocking northeast Delhi — said he had heard about “individual attacks” but that he did not discuss the matter with Mr Modi as it was “upto India” to take action. India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, meanwhile, told reporters at a separate briefing that Mr Trump had not raised the CAA issue in bilateral talks between him and Mr Modi, although the two leaders had discussed the issue of religious freedom “in a positive way” and had “appreciated the pluralism and diversity that is a binding factor of both countries”. The Indo-US joint statement too said: “As the leaders of sovereign and vibrant democracies recognising the importance of freedom, equal treatment of all citizens, human rights and a commitment to the rule of law, Prime Minister Modi and President Trump vowed to strengthen a India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, anchored in mutual trust, shared interests, goodwill and robust engagement of their citizens.

At his press conference in the evening where he reiterated his offer of mediation on the Kashmir issue, the US President also said both leaders had discussed the issue of “Pakistan” and “terrorism”, adding: “Mr Modi is a very religious man, as you know. He’s a calm man but he’s actually a very very strong person. I’ve seen him in action. He’s got that foremost in his mind, terrorism. He’ll take care of it.” Complimenting India’s fight against terror, the US President termed India as a “brave nation”, adding: “there’s no pullback from India”. Earlier in the day, President Trump also said that in their discussions, “PM Modi and I affirmed our two countries’ commitment to protecting our citizens from radical Islamic terrorism” and that “the United States is also working productively with Pakistan to confront terrorists who operate on its soil”. Offering to do “anything I can do to mediate”, the US President said: “We’re working on Kashmir. Kashmir is a thorn in a lot of people’s side for a long time. And there are two sides to every story.”

He added: “And I think they’re (India and Pakistan) going to work out their problems”. The two nations in their joint statement also “called for concerted action against all terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, TTP, D-Company, and all their affiliates”.

“I’m gonna be not at all controversial... I don’t want to blow the two days plus two days of travel on one answer, one little answer... So I will be very conservative in my answers if you don’t mind,” the US President was quoted as saying at the start of his interaction with the Indian and American media.