(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)
The historic visit of President Donald Trump to India is over. The 2-day visit brought about big changes in the relationship between India and the USA. Donald Trump does things which in a way that no other American President does. Donald Trump contested only one election in his life. He ran for President of the USA in 2016 and won against all expectations against Hillary Clinton, who was an American political giant.
Since becoming President in January 2017, Trump operated like no other US President. He broke all rules and today is very powerful and also very shrewd. Trump does not use his Cabinet Ministers or the usual media. He watches the TV a lot and decides on the spur of the moment. Yet, today the US economy is booming like never before in the last 50 years.
Trump rarely traveled abroad before he became US President. He had very little knowledge about India or its past. Trump, of course, knew that many Indians dominated the technology sector in the world and had great respect for their talents. But he had no personal knowledge of India and never met any prominent Indians. Therefore, there was always the worry that Narendra Modi will not be able to get along with him.
Why India needs America!
India has a great problem with its neighbors. We have a 10000-kilometer border and Pakistan and China are two very hostile neighbors with whom India actually went to war.
Even today, we are in a state of war with Pakistan and worried about China. Therefore, India had always to play the international scene and ensure that our rivals and enemies do not get other countries to work against India. Till 1990, there were 2 superpowers, namely USA and Russia. But after 1990, there is only one Superpower. Though China is very rich and ambitious, it does have Super-Power status, as it neither has the ability to wage war across the globe, talent or experience which America does.
India has a difficult Kashmir issue with Pakistan. We have serious border problems with China. So in today’s world, India has to win over the USA so that our enemies don’t use it to harass us. In this background, we have President Trump visiting India. It is useful for India today to have the USA and _President trump as our friend.
Trump’s visit to India :
There were great expectations about Donald Trump’s visit to India. Very rarely, we have a foreign President addressing a mammoth public meeting in India. But the 2-day trip has gone on to be a great success. I feel Day 1of the visit was more important as that was the day when India was stuck glued to the TV sets to watch Trump and his family at public meetings. The success of Day 1 would dominate whatever happens during the visit.
Day 1 of the trip was the arrival of Donald Trump at Gujarat and then on to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Straight from a 16-hour flight from the USA, Donald Trump came to Ahmedabad and went straight to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram. From there a roadshow to Motera Stadium to participate in a gigantic meeting of over 1.25 lakh people. Everything went according to plan. The trip to Agra also from Ahmedabad went according to plan.
Though Day 1 looked easy, it was a very big challenge and a great success. The images of the biggest stadium in the world and the 1.3 lakh people conveyed great images across the world of President Trump. The roadshow was also a great success. It was the grand success of Day which set the positive mood of Trump’s visit to India. Narendra Modi organized a spectacular meeting at Motera and roadshow perfectly. More important, Donald Trump gave a great speech.
But we must always keep in mind what the great British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston said about 230 years ago:” Nations have no permanent friends or permanent enemies. Only permanent interests ‘. That statement is the foundation of all diplomacy. Presidents come and Presidents go. But Indian interests continue.
Trump’s visit and its impact :
Trump’s speech at Motera stadium was the highlight of his visit, which gave at Motera stadium explained his foreign policy and also his views on India. There was no mincing of words or shying away from his opinions.
The US will fight “Radical Islamic terror “:
Trump said that India and the USA have a common goal of defeating “ Radical Islamic terrorism ‘ as both countries suffered from such terrorists. No other American president or European leader ever said it so directly. Trump directly warned all countries who encourage ‘Radical Islamic terrorism ‘ that he will fight them with all the force at his command. This was a serious message to Pakistan or any other country which encourages terrorism against India.
- During his speech, Trump explained that under his leadership, America became very powerful and USA had invested $ 2.5 trillion in modernizing the US army. He said that this US army is being used to attack terrorists everywhere and that the USA had defeated ISIS and killed its leader Baghdadi. Trump gave ample warning through this statement that he stood behind India in its fights against terrorism.
- Trump said that every country must guard its borders and every country has the right to decide who can come in and who can’t. This was also a reference to the CAA and NRC issues in India. President Obama gave the advice during his visit. But Trump never gives such free advice to host countries.
- Trump also praised the Indian NRIs in the USA and praised Indians for their hard work and brilliance. Normally, Trump never gives such wholesome praise when he visits foreign countries. He made a great exception with regard to India. We can expect better treatment of NRIs and Indian Software workers in the future.
- Trump’s visit to Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram also was a message that he valued India’s cultural and social history. The visit of the Trump family to the Taj Mahal was also another great event. Gandhiji’s message will be spread far and wide in the world.
- During Trump’s speech, he mentioned that India has come up through democratic ways, while other countries use force and threats, meaning China. Trump congratulated India ’s rise through peaceful and democratic ways. Trump praised India’s system while indirectly attacking China.
The photos and images convey very powerful images of the American leader who was very much a friend of India.
Gains to the USA :
Since the last 10 years, the USA, Europe, and the Pacific countries are unable to counter the rapid rise of China. In the last few years, China has been making insulting territorial demands in the South China Sea and even near Indonesia. Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam are threatened by China’s aggression and power. Under President Obama, the USA did not flex its muscles. But Trump has started a trade war with China and since China refuses to be subdued, he has now joined the effort to find ways to counter China.
India is the only nation with enough strength and also reasons to counter China. It does not mean that India will fight openly with China. But the visit of Trump has strengthened the USA in its fight against China.
The USA also wants India to reduce its trade deficit. India has taken steps to buy more arms, oil, coal, and planes and the deficit is being reduced. Definitely, Trump and the USA gained in getting closer and deeper with India.
The various agreements which Trump and Modi signed on February 25, 2020, are very focused. The agreements involve defense and energy. India agreed to purchase $ 3 billion of helicopters and other systems. These systems were never sold to India earlier. They strengthen India’s defense.
An agreement was also signed on energy and involves oil and coal. India buys enormous oil and coal from other countries. So we are shifting our orders slightly from other countries to the USA. India reduces the trade gap with the USA and loses nothing. Yet President Trump is happy that India signed a US $ 20 billion with the USA to buy American goods.
Personally, President Trump was very happy as he received a huge welcome and this will reflect in the USA and across the world.
What India gained from Trump’s visit :
- During the February 25, Press Conference at Hyderabad House in Delhi by Trump and Modi, President Trump stressed again that the USA will support India against Radical Islamic terror. This is a very significant statement. Neither President Obama or President Clinton ever gave such a straight warning to opponents of India. The message is directed against Pakistan and is a serious warning. President Obama did not stop Pakistani terrorism. But Trump is clear that he will not tolerate any source of terrorism in the world.
- The greatest gain are the images that have gone from India to the outside world. India lives in a very hostile neighborhood and Trump is viewed as a very powerful US President. That message has to be sent to the world. Even neighbors like Nepal, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and even Pakistan will get the message that the USA is not too happy when they try to get close to China.
- Pakistan and China will carefully weigh the impact of Trump’s visit. As for China, the message is that it should be more respectful of India’s concerns. China is fully aware that India and the USA share a strategic relationship, which means that our global goals are the same.
- Repeatedly Trump stressed many times at different meetings that the USA and India will work together to strengthen their homelands and fight against terrorism. This is a very powerful statement coming from the only Super-power.
Many Indians who are opposed to Narendra Modi question whether it is smart of Narendra Modi to openly support Donald Trump, who is facing an election in November 2020. It is a very small risk, as Trump looks very strong today. We cannot predict the future. If Trump wins, he will become an even greater friend. If Trump loses, it does not matter. India is such a big country that the Next American president will adjust to India.
The importance of India is due to its rising economic power. India and its leaders must never forget that they must guide and tend to the Indian economy very seriously if India wants respect from foreign countries. Hopefully, Modi will now focus more on economics, as that is the foundation of India’s strength.
(Dr Pullarao is a Delhi based political commentator and Economist)