President Donald Trump has returned after completing his 36-hour visit to India. There was too much hype about Trump’s visit to India for the last almost a month. In today’s world, diplomatic, strategic and economic relations with different countries have a special significance. In such a situation, the visit of the president of the world’s most powerful country is considered to be an important event. The significance of this visit grew even more as the Parliament recently passed an important resolution and abolished Article 370, the root of a major dispute, going on since independence.
Pakistan has been making incessant efforts of encouraging separatism and terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere, raising the boggy of Kashmir dispute. With the abolition of Article 370 and thereby, special status to Kashmir, the path of peace has become clear in Kashmir. However, to give rest to all controversies, it was necessary to create an atmosphere in favour of stability in Kashmir, at the international level too. By saying that whatever India does for Kashmir, will be good, all controversies have been put to rest by President Trump.
Donald Trump also repeatedly cited his friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi before and during his visit to India. It is understandable that this kind of harmony between the heads of government of the two great nations is a good sign. Trade wars between US, China and India have been going on for a long time. President Trump has a consistent complaint with China that it is destroying employment opportunities for Americans by dumping its cheap goods in the US. So he is determined to take every step to save his country’s employment and economy.
At the same time, the United States holds a grudge against India — that India sells all kinds of goods to America without tariff hindrances; however, very high import duties are imposed. For a long time, the US has been continuously raising import duties on goods coming from China and India. A few months ago, the US removed GSP, a provision granting trade concessions to India, affecting exports of nearly $ 5.6 billion from India. Just a few days before Trump’s visit to India, the US removed India from the category of developing countries and placed it in the category of developed countries. The effect will be that the trade concessions India receives from US, as a developing country will end.
The United States also complains that India has banned the import of milk products from America. At the same time, US companies have been complaining that India has imposed price controls on health devices, including cardiac stunts, knee implants etc., due to which their business interests are hurt. On the other hand, India has imposed various types of curbs on American e-commerce companies for some time. The US also complains that India’s patent law is contrary to the interests of their companies.
India has clearly explained to the US that we cannot accept their demands because as far as dairy is concerned, the US milk supplies come from non-vegetarian cows, which cannot be allowed due to religious and cultural reasons. Moreover, dairy provides livelihood to nearly 10 crore subsistence farmers. On the other hand, due to the discounting of e-commerce by American e-commerce companies, small shopkeepers in India are fast losing their employment. So it is necessary to impose curbs on these companies. As far as our intellectual property law, including patents, is concerned, it is very important for our public health and the protection of farmers; and therefore, it cannot be changed under any circumstances. Not only this, control over the prices of essential medical devices is absolutely necessary to provide affordable medical facilities to the poor in the country.
Amidst the plethora of grievances, the US has always been under the impression that they can get any agreement inked in their favour, by way of arm twisting and threats of sanctions, they have been practising in the past. There is no dearth of experts who would legitimise any agreement with US in the name of diplomacy. However, experience during Modi’s regime has been different. This time too, a few days before Trump’s visit, it became clear that even a limited trade agreement between India and the United States would not become a reality. Before coming to India, Trump had also announced that India was not agreeing on trade deal and it would not be possible.
He said, despite that he would come to India because he likes Modi. At the end of Trump’s visit, it is clear that India will not compromise its interests under any circumstances. As Trump’s visit drew to a close, New York Times ran a headline, “As Trump Visits India, a Trade Deal Remains Elusive. President Trump and Prime Minister Modi have plenty in common, but that doesn’t include a desire to quickly lower trade barriers between the two countries”.
America should not forget that India is also an important market for it. India’s ever-growing civil aviation sector has proved to be a boon for the United States, and, in the next few years, India is going to buy 300 Boeing aircraft worth $40 billion from USA. Today America has become a very important oil exporting country to India. In such a situation, the trade deficit that America is complaining about is going to end soon.
Washington has to understand that good relations with India and America are absolutely necessary to create international balance. That is why it is becoming clear in the Indo-US joint press release that the two countries will work together in the field of defence. Increasing strategic co-operation between India and the United States will improve the balance of power in the continent; and China, which is constantly increasing its strategic presence in the region, will also get appropriate response.
It is worth noting that for some time, under the ‘Belt and Road Project’, China has been pushing the developing countries into a debt trap in the name of infrastructure. Through this, it is becoming a threat to the peace of the region by capturing assets of strategic importance in those countries. A strategic partnership between India and the United States can be considered an appropriate response to China. Strongly rejecting the unfair trade and economic demands of the US and not signing trade agreements without causing any rift in Indo-US relations, Modi has written a new chapter in Indo-US relation, based on equality and mutual benefit and not on coercion and arm twisting.
(Dr. Ashwani Mahajan is an Associate Professor, Department of Economics, P.G.D.A.V. College, University of Delhi)