WASHINGTON: Amid smiles and serious talks, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi quietly introduced hug diplomacy to bilateral relations, beginning and ending with a bear hug initiated by Modi.
The bonhomie prevailed when the two leaders faced reporters after an Oval Office meeting, under sunny skies of the Rose Garden firm in their resolve to eradicate terrorism.
“India and the United States will always be tied together in friendship and respect. The future of our partnership has never looked brighter,” the president said.
Modi called his meeting with the president as an “important page in the history of the India-US relationship.”
President Trump stated that both the countries have been struck by the evils of terrorism. “We are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism.”
The president called the security partnership between the United States and India as “incredibly important.”
Prime Minister Modi reiterated in his joint statement “The top priority for both President Trump and myself is to protect our society from global challenges like terrorism, extremism and radicalization.”
President Trump and Prime Minister Modi called on Islamabad to “expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups. The two leaders also asked Pakistan not to use its territory for terrorist attacks on other countries.
It was a diplomatic victory for India, when the US announced the Kashmiri militant Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Sayeed Salahudeen as a “global terrorist.” Based in Pakistan, Salahudeen heads the major rebel group for the autonomy in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The State Department approved the sale of 22 unmanned Guardian drones estimated to be worth over two billion dollars to India.
President Trump calling for “a trade relationship that is fair and reciprocal.” asked for the removal of barriers for the export of US goods into Indian markets. “We reduce our trade deficit with your country,” the president added.
To promote a bilateral economic partnership, Modi invited First Daughter Ivanka Trump to lead the US delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this Fall, which she accepted.
During their 20-minute joint statements, there was no mention of H-1B visa program whose biggest recipient is India. For that the US administration has earlier signed Executive Orders relating to work and immigration.
Trump praised in advance the prime minister’s initiatives for implementing the largest tax overhaul in India, and extolled his big vision for improving infrastructure and fighting government corruption.
“Your accomplishments have been vast. India has the fastest growing economy in the world. We hope we’re going to be catching you very soon in terms of percentage increase,” Trump said.
“Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media,” Trump said in the Rose Garden arousing laughter from the attendees. “We’re believers, giving the citizens of our countries the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials, and for us to hear directly from them. I guess it’s worked very well in both cases.”
As both the leaders’ penchant for social media is well known. They are the world’s two most followed political leaders on Twitter, the US president has about 32.7 million followers while about 30.9 million users follow the Indian leader.
Calling India, a “true friend,” and a “very, very incredible nation,” the US president reiterated, “I have always had a deep admiration for your country and for its people, and a profound appreciation for your rich culture, heritage and traditions”.
“After our meetings today, I will say that the relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better,” the president said.
“Be assured that in this joint journey of our two nations towards development, growth and prosperity, I will remain a driven, determined and decisive partner,” he said, in the joint statement.
The meeting was termed “cordial” by Indian officials who were apprehensive about the outcome in view of an unpredictable Trump. It was observed that Trump “has gone out of his way to reach out to India.”
First lady Melania Trump’s presence also added some glitter as well as assurance for Modi’s visit. Since he became prime minister in 2014, he has visited the U.S. four times.
Although some differences existed as there was no mention of climate change, an issue of extreme concern in India, where many of its 1.3 billion people remain poor and vulnerable to extreme heat, drought and storm surges.
Trump did not mention about the Asia-Pacific, while Modi expressed India’s intent to increase cooperation in the region as a check against China’s rising power. It ended with hug from Modi.
Trump hosted dinner for Modi at the White House on Monday night, the first for a foreign dignitary at the White House, although he has hosted the leaders of Japan and China at his resort in Florida
Modi offered yet a third, public embrace as he departed the White House. Although Modi’s two-day Washington visit, which began June 25, was lower key than his previous three trips to the US.