Pakistan has tried to raise the bogey of nuclear weapons and created an impression of an impending conflict with India, but has failed to galvanise global opinion
in its favour. Apart from China, no major country has come to Pakistan’s support. Mr Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks on Kashmir, where he seemingly invited India and Pakistan to consider his offer of mediation, was deemed a great victory by Islamabad, but soon it realised that there was no substance in it. In the presence of Mr Trump at their meeting in Biarritz, France, on the margins of the G-7 summit, Mr Modi categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, saying the two countries can discuss and resolve all issues bilaterally, and “we don’t want to trouble any third country.”
India’s outreach at the UN General Assembly this year has been described as “unprecedented” by India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, with a total of over 75 heads of State and foreign ministers meeting with Mr Modi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan during the week, across various platforms. More importantly, Mr Modi’s regular presence at the UN General Assembly special sessions is in line with his desire to project India’s leadership credentials on the global stage. An India that wants to be a rule shaper, not merely a rule taker, should have a proactive approach to global governance. Mr Modi’s speeches, which tend to ignore Pakistan and touch upon key global issues facing the international community, position India effectively as a global interlocutor.
At the bilateral Indo-US level, Mr Modi is trying to shrewdly demonstrate the potency of the Indian diaspora with his mega outreach event in Houston. He hopes to leverage this soft power of India in his dealings with Mr Trump. Mr Trump’s presence at the event is an acknowledgement of this reality. A likely announcement on trade is on the cards. Both sides have been working on resolving trade issues.
The Trump Administration terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the key GSP trade programme in June this year, after determining that New Delhi has not assured the US that it will provide “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets. India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products — including almonds and apples — a year after announcing them, to counter the increase in steel and aluminium tariffs by the US and withdrawal of duty-free benefits to Indian exporters. But the two nations have engaged with each other throughout this challenging phase.
New Delhi also remains cognizant of the fact that it could benefit significantly from the ongoing US-China dispute if it takes appropriate policy measures. So, it would be important for Mr Modi to sell India as an investment destination to US investors, who would be keen to hear the Indian prime minister at a time when the global economy is slowing down. A number of measures announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are aimed at reassuring the investor community that India remains open for business. And Mr Modi would be conveying a similar message to American investors.
But what this visit of Mr Modi to the US would underscore once again is that Indo-US ties remain robust and, in the words of India’s ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the India-US strategic relationship has the potential to become the “defining partnership” within this century. Given how far this relationship has travelled in the last few years, this clearly doesn’t seem like an exaggeration.
The writer is Professor of International Relations, Department of Defence Studies, King’s College, London