India has a true friend in the White House: Trump

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump pledged their commitment to the India-US strategic partnership with Trump underlining that India had a “true friend” in him and that the relationship between the two countries had “never been stronger” nor “better” after face-to-face talks with Modi at the White House.

An hour-long meeting of the delegates of the two countries was held in the cabinet office of the White House. The US side was represented by US Vice President Mike Pence, defence secretary James Mattis, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt General HR McMaster. India’s NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and the Indian ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna accompanied the prime minister.

The two leaders then issued a joint statement at the Rose Garden of the White House.

Dealing with terrorism

Both the leaders struck a common note on terrorism, saying eliminating it is among the top-most priorities for the two nations.

Talking tough on terror, President Trump at the joint press briefing said both nations are “determined” to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them. “Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.

PM Modi said, “We talked about terrorism, extremism and radicalisation and agreed to cooperate on this.” Ahead of the meeting, the US State Department had declared Syed Salahuddin, chief of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in a move that India called a vindication of its stand against cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Trade and commercial ties

President Trump also said he is keen to work with PM Modi on creating a “fair and reciprocal” trading relationship between the two countries and called for the removal of “barriers” for the export of US goods into Indian markets. 

Trump said that it was “important that barriers be removed to the export of US goods into your market and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country”.

Bilateral trade between India and the US is at USD115 billion with India having the advantage. In his remarks, Modi stressed on the “convergence” between his vision for India and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” which he said would give new opportunities for the bilateral relationship to flourish.

This was PM Modi’s first meeting with President Trump; they have spoken thrice on the phone since the latter took office earlier this year.

US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC)

Sanjay Puri USINPAC
Sanjay Puri. Photo courtesy: LinkedIn

Sanjay Puri of the USINPAC had high hopes from this meeting. He said, “This is an opportunity for both leaders to get to know each other. President Trump has met many of the leaders of the world except PM Modi. This is an opportunity for both to get to know each other and build a rapport. PM Modi and President Trump will negotiate the best deals to benefit each country's economies through the right set of trade policies.”

As a mark of his commitment to the India-US relationship, Trump has accepted an invitation to visit India.