CWA Commentary

Photo Source: The Indian Express
   NIAS Course on Global Politics
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
For any further information or to subscribe to GP alerts send an email to subachandran@nias.res.in
Print Bookmark

CWA # 234, 29 February 2020

India and the US
Trump's India Visit: Optics, Substance and Rhetoric

  Rashmi Ramesh

The US will continue to pressurize India on trade-related issues, especially when the election is approaching. It is yet to be seen how India reels under punitive actions of Trump administration.

What happened?
President Donald Trump was on his first official visit to India from 24-25 February. His 36-hour visit was a combination of optics in Ahmedabad and Agra, and official talks in New Delhi. The most important takeaways were on the military and energy front, where both the countries agreed for technology transfer and expansion of cooperation in nuclear energy sector. 

The joint statement pronounced that there would be more cooperation and collaboration on the production of advanced military systems and strengthen strategic ties. Import of advanced military helicopters; a possible deal between Westinghouse Electric Co and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd; an agreement between the Exxon Mobil Corporation and Indian Oil Corporation to develop better pipeline network for natural gas distribution; the reiteration of India’s importance in the Indo-Pacific and the UN, are the key takeaways. 

What is the background?
For India, the visit was important, as it expected some progress in the negotiations on Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), substantial defence deals, strengthening energy cooperation and projecting India-US bonhomie. Prior to the visit, India purchased 24 Sikorsky MH-60R naval multirole helicopters and US had approved the sale of Integrated Air Defence Weapon System to India. There were, however, low expectations on a possible trade deal.

For the US, India is an important part of its Indo-Pacific strategy. Trump administration had renamed the US Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command, highlighting the position of India and the Indian Ocean in its strategic. An official visit would strengthen the US’s commitment to its stance. 
Also, with 2020 presidential elections on cards, Trump would want the Indian diaspora in the US to support his candidature and a visit to India could ensure the same. 

What does it mean?
First, Economics remains a tough nut to crack. Prior to his visit, Trump hinted at the possibility of not concluding a trade deal with India before the presidential elections in the US. This was clear during the visit when the two leaders did not ink a substantial agreement or deal on the trade front. India is demanding a resumption of export benefits under the Generalized Systems of Preferences and an exemption from high duties on aluminium and steel products. The US is against the imposition of high tariffs on its products and is also concerned with the trade deficit with India. The two countries expect an agreement by the end of this year. 

Second, the Indian media portrayed the visit as a milestone in bilateral relations. The foreign media, on the other hand, had mixed opinions. While some of them focused on the attention Trump got in a foreign country, few others juxtaposed the timing of the visit with the violent communal clashes in the capital. Some media houses criticized the lack of any big outcome or an agreement from the visit. 

Third, the question the trade deal continues to linger. The US will continue to pressurize India on trade-related issues, especially when the election is approaching. It is yet to be seen how India reels under punitive actions of Trump administration. There were many rhetoric statements on terrorism, Kashmir and US’s offer for mediation between India and Pakistan. New Delhi will certainly not accept a third-party mediation in this issue. The Indo-Pacific and the Quad maintains a status-co. The talks did not move beyond ‘free and secure Indo-Pacific’, even though Trump mentioned about revitalizing the informal grouping. This brings us to a point- whether Trump’s visit to India was substantive or was it more of the Motera Stadium, the ‘Wall of Ahmedabad’ and a whitewashed Agra. 

Print Bookmark

Other CWA Publications

The World this Week
August 2020 | CWA # 316

GP Team

Forthcoming elections in Sri Lanka, a migrant problem turning political in Italy, and the Second wave in Vietnam

read more
Conflict Weekly 28
July 2020 | CWA # 315

IPRI Team

Floods in Bihar, Nepal and Bangladesh, Abduction of a journalist in Pakistan, Neutralization of militants in Srinagar and the UNAMA report on Afghanistan

read more
The World this Week
July 2020 | CWA # 314

GP Team

Closure of Chengdu and Houston Consulates, COVID Recovery Fund in Europe, expanding Space race to Mars, and the Nuclear Security Index 2020

read more
Conflict Weekly 27
July 2020 | CWA # 313

IPRI Team

Devastating floods in Assam, and a mob Lynching of cattle smugglers along India-Bangladesh border

read more
The New Cold War
July 2020 | CWA # 312

Harini Madhusudhan

A Zero-Sum Game: At the core of the US-China rivalry, is an Isolate-China policy

read more
The Middle East
July 2020 | CWA # 311

Samreen Wani

Iran Nuclear Deal: It is time to write the obituary, for three reasons

read more
The World this Week
July 2020 | CWA # 310

GP Team

China's Economic Recovery, India-China Disengagement, India-Iran Chabahar Challenge and the UK's Huawei ban

read more
Conflict Weekly 26
July 2020 | CWA # 309

IPRI Team

Violence in India's Northeast, FGM ban in Sudan, the UN warning on Global Hunger & the Return of Global Protests

read more
The World this Week
July 2020 | CWA # 308

GP Team

Erdogan converts Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Trump doubts the second round of trade talks with China, and the ruling party wins the elections in Singapore again

read more
Conflict Weekly 25
July 2020 | CWA # 307

IPRI Team

Conflict and COVID in J&K, Dispute over constructing a temple in Islamabad, Return of the Indian fishermen into the Sri Lankan Waters, and the water conflict over River Nile in Africa

read more
The World This Week
July 2020 | CWA # 306

GP Team

Half a million COVID deaths in Coronavirus, Russian bounties to Taliban and Putin to remain President till 2036

read more
Conflict Weekly 24
July 2020 | CWA # 305

IPRI Team

Geelani's Exit and Continuing Violence in J&K, and the BLA attack on Pakistan stock exchange in Karachi

read more
MIDDLE EAST
June 2020 | CWA # 304

Padmashree A

Yemen and Oil, MBS’s two-path destruction in Saudi Arabia

read more
The World this Week
June 2020 | CWA # 303

GP Team

The US Senate sanctions on Hong Kong, The Late Wave in Latin America, Return of the START talks, South Korea's Warning to the North & the Palestine protest against West Bank annexation

read more
Conflict Weekly 23
June 2020 | CWA # 302

IPRI Team

Baloch Disappearance issue returns, Nepal tightens Citizenship rules, and Egypt enters the conflict in Libya

read more
The World this Week
June 2020 | CWA # 301

GP Team

Two years of Trump-Kim personal diplomacy, and the US troop withdrawal from Germany

read more