- Spin and reality
Despite sharp difference between the US and India on trade issues, President Trump considers PM Narendra Modi as a strategic ally while relations with Pakistan are seen important but at the same time transactional. Among other things this explains why President Trump is in India for two days while he is to visit Pakistan “soon” as promised by FM to the nation.
For President Trump, India is a big foreign market for the US as well as for the Trump organisation. US-India bilateral trade is worth $160b and India is seen as a big purchaser of US weapons systems. To crown it all, India is taken as a hedge against China. The US and India are wary of the increasing influence of China in the region and oppose Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its marque project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The US administration needs Pakistan mostly to help it extricate itself from Afghanistan.
For President Trump the Indian visit also has importance because close relations with the so-called biggest democracy can be touted to seek votes in the forthcoming Presidential elections. With a large number of Indian expatriates coming from Gujrat, Ahmedabad was selected for the public gathering where the US President delivered his address
President Trump’s visit comes at a time when PM Modi faces internal protests and external criticism against CAA and repression in Kashmir. India also faces a weak economy and rising unemployment. The US president’s visit, even if there is muted criticism of BJP government’s policies, will be presented as an endorsement of the regime.
After the Davos meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan, FM Qureshi waxed lyrical as he talked about several “important” issues having come under discussion in an hour-long meeting. These included a promise to speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the Kashmir issue. “We’re talking about Kashmir […] if we can help, we certainly will be helping. We’ve been watching that and following it very, very closely,” President Trump was reported to have said. One expects President Trump to talk about peace on LoC, joint efforts to end terrorism, even respect for dissent and other human rights. It remains to be seen if he calls for an end to atrocities in IHK also.