The hugs — three of them — and repeated handshakes made headlines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reasons to be pleased with his first meeting with US President Donald Trump. The nationalist leaders addressing issues like the South China Sea dispute and terrorism emanating from Pakistan has evoked sharp reactions from India’s neighbours.
“Any attempt by India to become US ally to counter China will not be in its interests and could even lead to catastrophic results,” said a State-run Chinese daily. News agency Reuters reported that hundreds of demonstrators in Pakistan burned an Indian flag in protest of US designating Salahuddin a global terrorist.
“On the whole the optics of the visit were very good, considering the fact that when Modi landed on the American soil Trump sent him that exuberant tweet,” says Dr. Harinder Sekhon, senior fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation.
“The timing of designating Salahuddin a global terrorist, even if it turns out to be symbolic one, does put Pakistan under renewed international scrutiny. But this does not take care of our war on terror. The Americans have just done the right kind of messaging.”
According to Dr Sekhon, “Trump is a transactional President and a businessman first, which is why he says he is very happy that Air India is buying a hundred planes, and that India would be investing very heavily in US energy resources because that would be a win-win situation. I think this is what India needs to leverage to get something.
Because I don’t see much that India has got from this visit, except that the Indo-Pacific pact, signed with the Obama administration, continues to remain important. But there’s nothing on New Delhi’s concerns on China’s intrusions into Indian soil.” As for opening up of Indian markets, “that is not a doable thing,” says Sekhon. “Because India also has huge developmental concerns.”
Dr Harinder Sekhon, senior fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation, says there is a need to sensitise US about India’s concerns.
“Because when they say they have jobless growth of over nine per cent, in India we have no figures at all... owing to the huge unorganised sector... we don’t know these numbers. There’s no comparison between their poverty and our poverty. It is tough to deal with the US. But nothing negative has come… no gaffes or blunders by Trump, nothing provocative has been said by him, which is good, given how Trump spoke about the Korean peninsula just before meeting China’s Xi Jingping. We need to build upon our gains,” Sekhon says.
D Raja of the CPI, however, has nothing but scorn for the meeting.
“What is positive? Nothing happened there. We willingly accepted the American position linking Islam with terrorism, which even Vajpayee did not accept. You can’t identify a religion with terror. What about H1 vias? Have we got anything? What about Climate change…America not only walked out of the Paris agreement, it blamed India and China... did Modi take up the issue? What about civilian nuclear cooperation… India is yet to get access to re-processing technology. So why should we be happy with this meeting?” he asks.
While Pakistan, as expected, shrugged off the US and Indian call to cease and desist from terrorism and vowed to continue to support the separatist movement in Kashmir, the reiteration of India’s position aligning with the US position on the Asia Pacific region sparked a sharp reaction from Beijing.
“To assume a role as an outpost country in the US’ strategy to contain China is not in line with India’s interests. It could even lead to catastrophic results.
If India regresses from its non-alignment stance and becomes a pawn for the US in countering China, it will be caught up in a strategic dilemma and new geopolitical frictions will be triggered in South Asia,” warned an editorial in the Chinese state run Global Times.
“Washington and New Delhi share anxieties about China’s rise. In recent years, to ratchet up geopolitical pressure on China, the US has cozied up to India,” the editorial added.