Lot of Trump-Modi chemistry, but little maths over bilateral trade deal


US President Donald Trump’s 36-hour visit to India did not see any deadlocks broken on the bilateral trade deal.

The visiting leader did not alter his views on Kashmir, even reiterated his offer to mediate between India and Pakistan, and also brought up the issue of religious tolerance in India.

However, both sides ended the day satisfied. New Delhi termed it a “very extraordinary visit”. It pointed to the chemistry between Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the interest the visit had generated in the US.

If the visit was a personal triumph for Modi, with Trump praising him as a “tough” and capable leader, it seemed more so for Trump, who is preparing for re-election.

At the joint press conference, the US president confirmed the two sides signed $3 billion worth of defence deals, with India’s military to purchase Apache and MH-60 Romeo helicopters.

Later in the day at an interaction with the press, he hoped to bridge the $16.9-billion trade deficit his country had with India and applauded investment by Indian business in the US, but was particularly pleased at the reception accorded to him in India.

Trump more than once referred to the grand welcome he received in Ahmedabad on Monday, stating that he had on good authority that he was given the biggest welcome ever to a visiting foreign leader in India.

On the question of a trade deal, the US president repeatedly said India was the “highest tariff country” in the world, that the US “has to be treated fairly and how during his tenure the trade deficit has come down …”

He said the two sides were working on the trade deal, and could agree on it towards the end of the year, but if a deal did not come about they might do “something else that is satisfactory”.

On his position on Pakistan sponsoring terrorism in India, Trump said the US could not be counted upon to take action because it is 8,000 miles away. He said Modi “is perfectly capable” of dealing with the situation. He also said he was good friends with Pakistan PM Imran Khan, that the Kashmir issue had “two sides” to it, and offered to mediate between the two South Asian neighbours.

At the joint press conference, Modi underlined India and the US raising their partnership to the level of a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” as the highlight of the visit. Trump said India and the US were keen to revitalise the Quadrilateral Initiative (Quad), which also comprises Australia and Japan. Until now, New Delhi has refrained from actively backing Quad as it does not wish to alienate China. In the afternoon, close to a dozen Indian industrialists met the US president.

They lauded him for relaxing regulations which improved business environment. Trump spoke of his achievements during his presidential term and pitched for his re-election.

Both Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani and also Kumar Mangalam Birla said acquisitions and business deals have become easier with quicker clearances. To this Trump replied, “That will only happen as long as I am there. If someone else comes, it all comes to a halt. We did some of the biggest tax cuts in the history, regulations were improved. That has brought you people to the US.”

He said markets have been up by 70-80-90 per cent up during his term. “Our markets will jump thousands and thousands points if I win,” said the US President.


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