Modi-Trump summit moves ties forward in several fields

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting US President Donald Trump at the delegation level talks at White House, in Washington DC. Photo: PTI
Compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three substantive summit meetings with former President Barack Obama between 2014-16, there are notable departures in the joint statement that was issued on Monday after the Indian PM met President Donald Trump.

 

The departures relate to the prioritisation of strategic relations; US support for India on China pushing an economic corridor through Jammu & Kashmir (J&K); naming Pakistan as a source of terror; and an Indian role in Afghanistan.

 

In Modi’s three meetings with Obama, the joint statements – which can be assumed to mention higher priorities ahead of lesser preoccupations – all led off with economic growth and clean energy. Lower priority was accorded to defence, homeland security and terrorism.

 

In Tuesday’s joint statement the order of priority was: partnership in the Indo-Pacific, terrorism cooperation, strategic cooperation, free and fair trade and, finally, energy.

 

While the Indo-Pacific partnership was dealt with at some length, and the statement called on “regional countries” to uphold freedom of navigation, it avoided mention of either China or the South China Sea. This would not be the first time such a reference was dropped; the June 2016 joint statement too had no such mention.

 

Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Service Institute assesses: “The Trump administration has walked a fine line on the issue, to avoid jeopardising Chinese support over North Korea.”

 

Previous joint statements unreservedly back infrastructure creation for Asian regional connectivity, but Trump has backed India’s opposition to China’s landmark Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Hewing to New Delhi’s line that the CPEC violates India’s sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a part of J&K, the joint statement supports regional connectivity “while ensuring respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law and environment.”

 

On terrorism, the US has supported India with a clearly tougher line. Leading up to the summit, the US State Department designated Hizbul-Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Monday’s joint statement saw the unprecedented mention of “cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”

 

On Tuesday, Washington also supported India's role in Afghanistan far more unequivocally than in previous summits. Earlier, Washington pandered to Islamabad’s concerns, which feared that New Delhi was “outflanking” it in Kabul. Pakistan, therefore, arm-twisted Washington into keeping India away, dangling the carrot of its influence over the Taliban and Haqqani Network that were fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

 

New Delhi, in turn, allowed in far stronger language on North Korea, which currently is one of Trump’s top priorities. In April, the Modi government had enforced sanctions on North Korea, as its second-largest trading partner. But, here too, the joint statement took a shot at China, noting that “all parties that support these (North Korean) programs” would be held accountable.

 

In defence, the statement spoke of deepening cooperation between the “major defence partners”, and the unprecedented US offer of Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems. The agreement for sharing “White Shipping” data, which relates to commercial liners plying the Indian Ocean, was proposed to be expanded.

  Sept 2014, Washington Jan 2015, New Delhi Jun 2016, Washington Jun 2017 in Washington
Mantra Chalein Saath Saath; (Forward Together We Go) Sanjha Prayas, Sab ka Vikas; (Shared Effort, Progress for All) Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century US and India – Prosperity through Partnership
Statements US-India Vision Statement 1.  New Delhi Declaration of Friendship

2.  Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific
Joint statement after Modi met Obama for “Working Visit” Joint statement after Modi met Trump
Topic order in Joint Statement (which suggests an order of priorities) 1. Economic growth

2. Energy and climate change

3. Defence and Homeland security

4. High tech, space and health cooperation

5. Global issues and regional consultations.

 
1.  Economic growth

2.  Defence and Homeland security

3. Clean energy

4. Climate change

5. Global issues and regional consultations.
1.  Climate change and clean energy

2.  Clean energy finance

3.  Strengthening global non-proliferation

4. Land, Maritime, Air, Space and cyber security.

5.  Terrorism and violent extremism.

6. Economics and trade.

7. Technology & health

8. Global leadership.

9.  People-to-people ties.
1. Partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.

2. Terrorism cooperation.

3. Strategic convergence.

4. Free and fair trade.

 
Defence & homeland security and maritime cooperation 1. Treat each other like “their closest partners.

2. Will renew for 10 years the “Framework Agreement for Defence”.

3. US mine blast-resistant vehicles to India
1. Welcomed Pentagon’s rapid reaction team to focus on DTTI*.

2. Need for defence ties to focus on tech cooperation, co-production, co-development

3. Welcomed intensified coop in maritime, as reflected in the 2015 Defence Framework Agreement

4. To enhance maritime coop further.
1. Cooperation roadmap made out under Defence Framework Agreement.

2. Welcomed inaugural Maritime Security Talks.

3. Agreement for sharing “White Shipping” data.

4. Welcomed finalisation of Logistics Exchange Agreement (LEMOA).

5. To explore agreements that will further expand defence cooperation.

6. The US recognised India as “Major Defence Partner”.

7. Finalised agreement on aircraft carrier technology cooperation.

 
1. Deepen cooperation based on US designation of India as a “major defence partner”.

2. The US offered India sale of Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems.

3. Enhance implementation of the “White Shipping” data sharing arrangement.

4. Trump welcomed Modi’s invitation for the US to join Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
Asian security architecture 1. Need for freedom of navigation and over flight in the region, especially in the South China Sea.

2. Resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means.

3.  Explore upgrading of trilateral talks with Japan to Foreign Minister level.
1. “Joint Strategic Vision”: The importance of maritime security and freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.

2. Resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means.

3. Committed to strengthening the East Asia Summit on the 10th anniversary.

4. Cited the US-Japan-India dialogue to urge projects of common interest.
No mention of Indo-Pacific or Asian security. 1. The close partnership between the US and India central to peace and stability in Indo-Pacific.

2.  Called on regional countries to adhere to set of common principles: (a) Freedom of navigation, overflight and commerce.

(b) Resolve disputes peacefully.

 
Joint military training To upgrade the Malabar exercise Reiterated commitment to upgrade naval Ex Malabar Welcomed enhanced mil-to-mil cooperation, especially in disaster relief operations. 1. Noting the importance of Malabar naval exercise in July, agreed to expand the scope.

2. Agreed to explore new training exercises.
Counter-terrorism cooperation 1. Concern over terrorism, mentions ISIL

2. Dismantle safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks.

3. Disrupt all networks such as Al Qaeda, LeT, JeM, D-Company, and Haqqanis

4. Pakistan to bring to justice Mumbai 2008 perpetrators.

5. Identify modalities for terrorist watch list exchange
1. US-India partnership a defining counterterrorism relationship for the 21st century.

2. Zero tolerance of threat posed by groups like Al Qaida and ISIL.

3. Need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as LeT, JeM, D Company and Haqqani Network.

4. Pakistan to bring to justice Mumbai 2008 perpetrators.

5. Develop action plan through the Homeland Security Dialogue and Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.

6. Deepen collaboration on UN terrorist designations
1. Deepening cooperation based on September 2015 US-India Joint Declaration on Combating Terrorism.

2. Strengthen cooperation against extremist groups like Al-Qaida, ISIL, JeM, LeT, D Company and their affiliates.

3. Pakistan to bring to justice perpetrators of Mumbai 2008 and Pathankot 2016 attacks.

4.  Identify new areas of collaboration through the Counterterrorism Joint Working Group.

4. Finalised arrangement to share terrorist screening information.

 5. Affirmed support for UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
1. Calling terrorism a “global scourge”, the statement resolved that US and India will fight it together.

2. Strengthen cooperation against terrorist groups like Al-Qaida, ISIS, JeM, LeT, D-Company, and their affiliates.

3. India appreciated US designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

4. Called on Pakistan to “ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.”

5. Further called on Pakistan to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”

6.  Affirmed support for UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
Afghanistan 1. The importance of both strategic partnerships with Afghanistan.

2. Continue consultations and cooperation on the future of Afghanistan.
1. Promote a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.

2. Reaffirmed the importance of both strategic partnerships with Afghanistan.

3. Would continue high-level consultations on Afghanistan in the near future.
 

 

No mention of Afghanistan.
1. Trump welcomed India’s role in Afghanistan’s stability, prosperity, and security. 2. Reaffirmed the importance of both strategic partnerships with Afghanistan.

3. Committed to continue close consultations and cooperation on future of Afghanistan.

 
Regional connectivity Must accelerate infrastructure connectivity and develop corridors for regional economic integration. Specifically cited the need to stabilise Afghanistan, through transport and economic connectivity between South and Central Asia.  

 

No mention of regional connectivity
US supports construction of regional connectivity while ensuring respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law and environment.

 
North Korea Concerns over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Urged North Korea to denuclearize. Concerns over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Urged North Korea to denuclearize.  

 

No mention of North Korea
1. Strongly condemned “continued provocations” by North Korea, which poses “a grave threat to regional security and global peace.”

2. Pledged to together counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

3. Will hold accountable “all parties that support these programs”. (China)
International regimes Work towards India’s phased entry into the NSG, MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group. Work towards India’s phased entry into the NSG, MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group. 1.  Looked forward to India’s imminent MTCR entry.

2. The US called on NSG members to support India when its membership application comes up at the NSG Plenary in June.

3. The US also re-affirmed support for India’s early membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.
1. The US strongly supported India’s early membership in NSG, Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.

2. Reaffirmed US support for India’s permanent membership of a reformed UN Security Council.

 
*DTTI: Defence Trade and Technology Initiative