‘Old Partnerships, new friendships.’ The tweet by MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay announced the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Joint Air Force Base Andrews, Washington DC, on Sunday morning (UST). The three-day visit seems curiously low-key compared to earlier ones, when Modi received a rock-star-like welcome, both from the Obama administration and the Indian American community.
After checking into the Willard InterContinental, Modi met several leading American CEOs in the hotel conference room later. “The whole world is looking at India. Seven thousand reforms alone have been done by the government for ease of business,” the Prime Minister claimed, while pitching for academic study of India’s GST at American business schools. This is to be followed by a lunch meeting with 600 Indian Americans specially selected by the Embassy in Washington.
Hours before Modi’s arrival, US President Donald J Trump enthusiastically tweeted that he looked “forward to welcoming India’s PM Modi to @WhiteHouse on Monday. Important strategic issues to discuss with a true friend!” However, when the two leaders and their delegations meet for their first official summit, several thorny issues might come up for discussion.
“The Indian side will be looking for a thumbs up from Trump on the broad contours of the Indo-US relationship,” said Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, a senior journalist and fellow at the Ananta Aspen Centre. “The Indian side has met almost all of Trump’s foreign and defence policy team and found they differ little from previous administrations and are generally positive about India. But India wants to ensure that Trump’s tendencies to whimsical tweets do not derail all that India and the US already have laid out.”
Other issues include curbs placed on the H-1B Visa which has hit the Indian IT industry, climate change, with Trump having pulled out of the Paris deal, dealing with terrorism, particularly from Pakistan, and of course, ways to reconcile Trump’s ‘America First’ vision with Modi’s “Make in India” initiative.