Trump and Modi met at the White House on Monday
Trump and Modi both spoke at length about military cooperation
President Donald Trump’s first meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on Monday was long on proclamations of friendship and short on confrontation over delicate policy issues.
The duo touted ties between India and the United States during a series of events, with both heralding the military cooperation between the United States and India. Though a largely controversy free visit, the focus on military cooperation with India thrusts the new President into the delicate world of India-Pakistan relations.
At least publicly, the two world leaders looked like fast friends, sharing multiple hugs and handshakes during the visit. Trump administration officials hoped to “roll out the red carpet” for Modi, capped by a working dinner in the White House residence.
The meeting between the off-the-cuff President and the prime minister who leads one of the world’s fastest growing economies could have been filled with contentious issues, but publicly that wasn’t evident.
No issue on the table may have be more challenging than how the United States treats India like a “major defense partner” – a designation the Obama administration gave the country in 2016 – without angering neighboring Pakistan.
Trump nodded to their possible differences during a meeting in the White House, but struck an optimistic tone.
“We agree on most things and I would say by the end of the day we’ll agree on everything,” Trump said.
Trump and Modi both spoke at length about military cooperation during a Rose Garden ceremony where the two leaders delivered joint statements.
Trump called the security partnership “incredibly important” and said both nations would work together to “destroy radical Islamic terrorism.”
“Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them,” Trump said.
Modi, speaking through a translator, emphasized this work and the lengths India has gone to help the United States in Afghanistan.
The Indian leader, who has recently looked to woo companies to India with a “Make In India” campaign, said Monday that his vision could work with Trump’s campaign pledge to “Make America Great Again,” his 2016 campaign slogan.
“I am sure that converge between my vision for new India and President Trump’s for making America great gain will add new dimensions to our cooperation,” Modi said. “I am very clear about the fact that India’s interests lie in as strong and prosperous and successful America in the same way that India’s development and its growing role in the international level are in the US’ interest.”
Senior administration officials who prepared Trump for Monday’s meeting said Trump was aware of the delicate balance with India and Pakistan, but would look to treat the 1.3 billion person country like the defense ally it is, including by selling the kind of “technology that the United States provides to its closest allies and partner.”
Experts expect those sales to be of drones and any tightening in relations between India could jeopardize the US-Pakistan relationship.
“I want to make a point here that US relationships with India and Pakistan really stand on their own merits and terms,” a senior administration official said. “We don’t see a zero-sum relationship when it comes to the US relationship with Pakistan and the US relationship with India.”
While the Trump administration hopes to “deepen” its relationship with India, the official added that they are “also interested in continuing our cooperation with Pakistan” and are “concerned about tensions between Indian and Pakistan.”
Trump thanked Modi for his purchases of military equipment during a meeting in the White House’s Cabinet Room.
“Nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment, so thank you very much,” Trump said. Modi, likewise, heralded Trump for the “respect” they have shown him and India.
Monday’s meeting brought together the world leaders with the two largest Twitter followings.
Modi has close to 31 million followers. Trump has over 32 million.
Trump even highlighted their affinity for social media in the Rose Garden.
“The relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better,” Trump said. “I am proud to announce … that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media.”
He added: “We are believers, giving citizens of our country to hear directly from the elected leaders and from us to hear directly from there.”