FROM the din of the grand spectacle of pomp and pageantry in Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Motera two dynamic world leaders, in their own right, have opened a new chapter in the Indo-US relations that now bask in a unique warmth after the two-day visit of the President of the United States Mr. Donald Trump to India. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and the US President have managed to instill a wonderful pep in the bilateral relations that transcended the usual transactional format and touched millions of hearts in both countries.
Mr. Trump’s visit will go down in the annals of Indo-US relations as a historic turning point towards a strategic but close partnership. Mr. Trump’s address to the lakhs sitting in the world’s biggest cricket stadium was a welcome departure from the past where the visiting US leaders emphasised the need of a strong bond but stopped short on making an unequivocal commitment. If the event mirrored the ‘Howdy Modi’ gala held in New York last September, then it was a significant achievement for our Prime Minister who succeeded in bowling over the ‘Showman of a leader’ with grand hospitality and importance of endearment in defining bilateral relationships.
The visit was Mr. Trump’s first to India. It came after a gap of five years since former President Mr. Barack Obama became the chief guest for the Republic Day function in 2015. This visit will be definitely hailed as a milestone in the evolving nature of relations between the two countries and will lay a solid foundation for new alignments, challenges and opportunities of mutual interest. That the occasion was overwhelming can be gauged from Mr. Trump’s assertion that “the US will always be faithful and loyal friend of India”. Sentiment behind the statement goes deep and marks India’s position of eminence in present churn of geopolitics. The US President was effusive in praise of India’s growth story as a free society, a subtle barb towards political and economic adversary China and at the same time recognition of India as a vibrant democracy with a tradition of embracing individual freedom. The visit had some key takeaways for India including business, defence and energy deals.
Mr. Trump was forthright in emphasising intertwining nature of security and defence requirements of India and the US. By invoking the dangers posed by radical Islamic terrorism to both the countries, the POTUS endorsed India’s stand against cross-border terrorism. There was a passing mention of Pakistan but Mr. Trump chose not to hyphenate the two neighbours, a tradition practiced by his predecessors right from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. What India has explicitly managed to achieve from the show of bonhomie is critical defence deals, start of a “good trade deal”, and more importantly leadership role in the South Asian region. It is imperative for the US to find a responsible power that acts as a counter-balance to the rise of China.
India has earned the stature with strategic and sentimental investments in the region and with the backing of a growing economy it sits on the threshold of becoming a key player in the comity of nations. Mr. Trump’s recognition of India’s role in maintaining balance and freedom in the Indo-Pacific underscores the US efforts to strengthen India’s defence capabilities. It can be counted as a substantive outcome of the visit as the Indian Armed Forces will be benefitted by the latest weapons and technology through the USD 3 billion dollar defence deal. The US President chose to be unconventional to announce the arms deal with clear mention of weapons and equipment being offered to India. By leaving the traditional elliptical reference, Mr. Trump has also sent a message to Beijing about India’s rising military capabilities.