US President Donald Trump started his stand-alone visit to India by landing in Ahmedabad. Prime Minister Narendra Modi received him at Ahmedabad airport. The personal rapport between the two leaders is well known. Gujarat is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and President Trump’s visit to Sabarmati Ashram was significant in view of Gandhiji’s role in liberating India from the clutches of the British Raj. India could not have offered a more befitting welcome to Mr. Trump than to request him to inaugurate the world’s largest cricket stadium in Motera, Ahmadabad in the presence of more than a hundred thousand people from all across India. In a matter of a few hours, the American President was exposed to a large variety of Indian culture through display of music and dance from a host of Indian states.
President Trump was visibly impressed with Indian diversity and the multi-cultural beauty of Indian society. However, his speech at the Motera Stadium was music to the ears of millions of Indians who heard him directly or listened to his speech on the radio or television. President Donald Trump was at his best in appreciating the growth story of India in a short span of seven decades in the fields of poverty alleviation, economic growth, scientific and technological developments and many more. He said that India has become a major economy of the world and, in fact, India recently replaced Britain as the fifth largest economic power in the world in terms of GDP. He heartily noted the contributions of about four million Indian-Americans to the American society.
In addition, President Trump outlined the remarkable progress in Indo-US strategic partnership and predicted that the partnership is and will remain durable. By highlighting the need for coordinated Indo-US efforts in tackling the menace of terrorism, President Trump noted the demise of ISIS in West Asia and the elimination of its top leaders. He underlined his efforts to put pressure on Pakistan and described Pakistan as an ally of the United States.
For many, his reference to Pakistan was unnecessary. However, his remarks were important from the American prospective in view of the ongoing efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. In order to balance his statements he did emphasize the role of India and the US in tackling terrorism. Only recently, India, the US and even China were together in ensuring that Pakistan remained on the grey list of terrorist financing countries. The Trump administration has also imposed sanctions or withdrawn funds to Pakistan. Seen in the background of American actions, his statement on Pakistan is understandable.
He minced no words to express the importance of growing defence and security cooperation between India and the United States, underlined the significance of sophistication of bilateral military exercises, and promised top-of-the-art military sales to India.Initially, it appeared that the first leg of his maiden trip to India would be just optics and symbolic. But in reality, it turned out to be substantive as well. Throughout his speech, President Trump communicated with the Indian masses the importance, depth and usefulness of Indo-US strategic partnership in no uncertain terms. He also hinted that a new big deal is in the offing for further enhancement of bilateral relations between the two countries.
It needs emphasis that in the changing global order, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, one of the signature developments in world affairs has been the growth trajectory of Indo-US strategic partnership. While the trajectory has been an upward one, there have been ups and downs and hurdles and challenges. Ever since Donald Trump came to power India has experienced new challenges especially in the fields of trade and commerce. But efforts are being made by the top officials of both the countries to negotiate a compromise deal.
There were expectations that the deal would be signed during Trump’s visit to India. But both the governments need more time and one hopes that a new deal would be agreed upon in time.
Script: Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Rector & Pro VC, JNU