As Prime Minister Narendra Modi sits down with the US President Donald Trump, for their first summit meeting this weekend on June 26, this is the menu they should have to take the Indo-US relationship to the next level.
Fast track Economic ties: Having interacted and interviewed Donald Trump and speaking to some key interlocutors our first suggestion is for the Prime Minister to meet Trump with a bag of economic ideas and agenda. Despite the criticism in the US media and his mercurial personality Trump has been a successful businessman who values deal making, so the Prime Minister’s message should be that increased two-way trade and Modi government’s new economic moves like the GST and ease of business in India can pave way for the US companies to invest in India. In fact, the current level of trade of 114 billion in goods and services should be tripled at the very least. US companies can partner India in PM’s smart cities, clean energy and Swacch Bharat campaign. This is minuscule in comparison to the US-China trade of 648 billion. The choice of Ken Juster, a doer as the new US Envoy to India reflects the focus Trump administration will have on economic ties and India must reciprocate this.
Focus on terrorism from Pakistan: While the continued terrorism from Pakistan and recent activities of Pak-based terror groups is part of PM’s talking points, a clear linkage on terrorism impacting US and India interests in the region and its economic impact on business, tourism and investment will find a greater resonance with Trump, who understands the impact terrorism can have on the economy and business. Prime Minister Modi should deviate from MEA’s often feeble worded responses and take a firm line on terrorism emanating from Pakistan and why that is at the centre of the problem that exists in the region. India should not shy away from encouraging US to target terror camps in Pakistan not only on the border with Afghanistan but elsewhere in Pakistan as these terror groups are on the US watch list and terror masterminds like Hafiz Mohammed Saeed continue to spew venom against India and the US. Trump had told NewsMobile in an exclusive interview earlier that he was concerned by Nuclear terrorism, and nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, India could offer a helping hand there especially in its immediate neighbourhood and beyond.
Defence Ties should drive Strategic Partnership: Intensifying Defence ties on newer technology and make in India push for the Defence sector for Army, Airforce and Navy and greater interoperability will ensure that Indian and the US forces can actually work together in a global crisis situation. The agreement of manufacture F-16 in India and sale of Arrow drones to India is a big leap forward and also blends well with Trump’s desire to create more jobs. For India, this gets them access to defence technology usually only reserved for the US’ Nato allies. While in Washington, the Indian Prime Minister must ensure that defence ties become a cornerstone of the relationship to keep the momentum.
Developing Personal Chemistry: One thing that is common to both leaders is their desire to go beyond and do the unexpected, they should find time to get to know each other and also it will be a good idea to keep contentious issues like HI-B visas and climate change at bay, while the MEA and State Department may resist this, but often big decisions stem from the personal rapport that leaders develop. PM must get a promise from Trump to visit India and convey to him that a grand welcome awaits him, Trump loves fanfare and colour and that is a style we should engage him with.
This is where the PM’s advisors need to script the last minute briefing to the PM coupled with some well thought out gift diplomacy for Melania and Ivanka, and believe me it works.
A friend you can count on: At a juncture when Trump is facing flak from many within the US and a vicious media attack, he does need many friends across the globe who can shoulder global responsibilities as Trump looks to a more insular US policy which will increasingly rely on its allies to do the heavy lifting. This is a great opportunity for India to hone its leadership skills in Asia, be seen as a leader on global forums and also be seen as promoting