The significance of any US Presidential visit to any country since the end of Second World War can never be underestimated. It is not only because the United States is a global superpower, but also because the world’s political economy exists in a complex web of connectedness, where the US’ role has been paramount.
There can be differences of opinion about the outcome of a US Presidential visit, but none can challenge the importance of engaging America. There are several critical reasons why the forthcoming visit by US President Donald Trump to India is important for both the countries.
The global strategic balance has been rapidly shifting and tilting in favour of the United States. The talk of a declining America and rising China has come to a halt. Despite several controversies surrounding his presidency, President Trump has been able to reclaim US position and power in the world and China has not been able to challenge US global influence. Engaging a powerful political entity like the United States is necessary for any member country of the international community.
The Trump Administration has been effectively taking steps to counter the growing assertiveness of China in recent years—whether in extending Chinese sovereignty over a vast expanse of water in the South China Sea/East Sea; show of naval force in distant oceanic waters or promoting predatory economic practices through its’ Belt and Road Initiative. It is in India’s interest to team of with countries that aim at making China a peaceful stakeholder and discouraging it from displaying its military power.
Also, the US-India strategic partnership, painstakingly built over the last few decades, requires constant nurturing and updating. A Summit meeting between the US President and the Indian Prime Minister is the natural corollary of the strategic partnership. The 2+2 dialogue mechanism involving the defence and external affairs departments at the ministerial level has been a good addition to boost Indo-US strategic relations. But, the attention and engagement at the highest level of the governments is required to make the relationship more robust and durable.
The economic relationship between India and the US has been confronting few challenges. The trade officials of both the countries have been working hard to resolve the differences and enhance cooperation. No other US President has given as much attention to trade and investment issues as has President Trump. With a sound business background, President Trump desires to shape his foreign economic policy in certain ways by changing some of the traditional foreign economic policies of his predecessors. In the light of altered political economy of the world, India seeks to shape its own equations with the United States. Generating a Summit level understanding to avoid misperception and arrive at a win-win solution to differences is the demand of the day.
Summit meetings also reflect the depth and importance countries assign to each other. President Trump has not made too many bilateral visits; and, if he has shown interest in coming to India, it is the reflection of the importance the current White House attaches to America’s evolving relationship with India.
Prime Minister Modi’s Summit meeting with President Trump in Washington, DC was a remarkable aspect of Mr. Modi foreign policy. The Houston stadium’s “Howdy Modi” event in support of the Indian Prime Minister in the US impressed President Trump about Indian human resources in his country making contributions in the country of their residence. The planned stadium show by Prime Minister Modi in Motera, Gujarat for the US President aims at showcasing the demographic marvel of India that would be an important part, among other things, of the bilateral economic engagements.
No matter how sound the fundamentals of relationship between nations are, attention at the highest level to such ties is the key to realise the fruits of those fundamentals. Thus, President Trump’s forthcoming visit to India is highly significant.
Script: Prof.Chintamani Mahapatra, Rector & Pro VC, JNU