The overall tone and tenor of the visit signalled a great road ahead.
The 45th US President, Donald Trump has launched his re-election campaign in right earnest. In a rare show of support many state Republican Party units have cancelled their primaries. But none of his support rallies could probably match the one he witnessed in India for which he should thank his friend Narendra Modi in the event of his winning the presidential race this November.
It was not an easy payback for Modi. He had to get done what even the best of the event managing companies could not do. Gather over a lakh of people in a stadium to cheer a visiting friend from the US, micromanage Trump’s 34-hour stay in India and most importantly get Trump to keep largely to his teleprompter speech. So, Trump said nothing that could send South Block mandarins to scurry for damage control. Their sigh of relief could be heard far and wide.
If anything, that itself was a big takeaway of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India. But on a serious note his visit did go a long way in catapulting India to the centre stage of US strategic planning circles.
One important area of concern for New Delhi was the way White House would want to strike a balance between India and Pakistan with a view to enlist the support of Islamabad to facilitate US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Going by Trump’s comments, it appears that US policy on Pakistan could undergo a total change, auguring well for New Delhi. In an almost veiled acceptance of India’s stand of zero tolerance for terror activities emanating from Pakistani soil, Trump’s reference to his government’s efforts to work “in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on the terrorist organizations and militants that operate on the Pakistani border” is nothing short of endorsing New Delhi’s actions on cross border terrorism.
New Delhi must have done its home work well, which was evident from the fact that Trump did not touch upon any of the contentious issues that could have seen as a jarring note. His reference to India’s diversity and pluralism and admiration for “millions upon millions of Hindus, and Muslims, Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Jews” worshipping side by side in harmony should come as a relief to the present dispensation, especially in a strife ridden atmosphere.
Trump also did not refer to the stressful situation arising out of CAA, and in fact went a step further by saying “today I say to every Indian, north and south, Hindu or Muslim, Jewish and Christian, young and old, take pride in the glories of your past, unite for an even brighter future, and let our two nations always stand together as powerful defenders of peace and liberty.”
The rise of China, economically and militarily, is a major challenge for the US, prompted by the fear that China would overtake US on all aspects of global power axis. Internal power dynamics in the US could have forced the Trump administration to ink the first phase of the much delayed trade deal with China, but his reluctance to accept the deal was evident. At the first opportunity, citing the deadly coronovirus outbreak, the Trump administration put on hold the implementation of the trade deal with Beijing.
In this background, though no major India-US trade deal was signed, the overall tone and tenor of the visiting high profile dignitary signalled a great road ahead. His recognition of India’s growth trajectory against many odds comes at a time when not only the US but many other emerging economies are looking at New Delhi as a logical alternative to China, notwithstanding the economic and military asymmetry.
Speaking on this Trump said, “India’s rise as a prosperous nation is an example for every nation of the world and one of the outstanding achievements of the century.” “It is all the more inspiring because you have done it as a democratic country, as a peaceful country, you have done it as a tolerant country, and you done it as a great, free country.”
Global power equations have undergone constant changes and the race for supremacy has been an intense one, often leading to major military contests including world wars. The rise and subsequent fall of Germany after a fiercely fought world war, the disintegration of the erstwhile USSR after a long and at times bitter cold war of over four decades and the rise and fall of Asian Tigers are only a few examples of the nebulous nature of power struggles. The gradual erosion of hydrocarbon as the only important source of energy is likely to reduce the importance of West Asia and the rest of the Arab world.
Democracies all over the world face one common problem—of continuously keeping higher performance standards and getting regular approvals from the electorate. India and the US are no exceptions.
Both Modi and Trump should be able to further strengthen the foundation of a strong and sustainable basic structure for a security and strategic architecture that will provide for uninterrupted growth of all stakeholders, without threatening the national sovereignties or compromising national interests.
Though, there will remain differences in a number of areas including bilateral trade agreement, US and India would require to work together and bridge the differences. The bilateral convergences in strategic areas connote the seriousness from both sides in augmenting a constructive engagement. There is a growing realisation and acknowledgement that India is a responsible player and has emerged as a negotiator from a position of strength. Such behavioural pattern of India is now getting mature and slowly and steadily getting reflected in all its actions in realising its fundamental goals. The rest of the world has been watching the growing bonhomie in Indo-US relations.
Dr Arvind Kumar is a Professor of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education), Manipal. Seshadri Chari is a well known political commentator and strategic analyst.