Donald Trump and Narendra Modi (LaPresse)

Playing the “Trump Card” in India

Two great leaders from two great countries. This is the story of U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both leaders have led their respective states through good and bad and what lies ahead for them could be a turning point in their relations. For starters, both are equally loved and hated. Trump who just narrowly escaped impeachment in the U.S. made his maiden trip to India on February 24. He was visiting Modi, who himself has a huge fan following across the country but is also being scrutinized and criticized for his stance on Muslims living in the country and revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy last year.

Trump and Modi Both Under Political Attack

While President Donald Trump faces backlash from Democrats from all domains for his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, Modi is also witnessing a barrage of protests where students line up almost every day to protest the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act. Both leaders are under fire by their own people. Both are looking to find positive headlines that would bring back much-needed respect. This visit came at a very crucial point for them, one is looking forward to heading another term come November and the other is trying to reclaim lost trust.

Donald Trump’s visit to India was mainly to show that he has a global image. A trait that not many leaders do, but if they do, it’s generally for the right reasons. This trip was also to express that Trump cares deeply about the Asian continent and more importantly about China’s relations with nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan. This move can be termed as a strategic one where many interests were at stake. Let’s not forget Modi also made the trip to the U.S. last year and was welcomed by Indians wholeheartedly at an event called “Howdy Modi” in Houston, Texas.

The Trump-Modi Bromance

The ‘bromance’ witnessed during Modi’s Texas trip was massive. It showed that American-Indians love Modi’s attitude, his stance and his policies. In Gujrat, India, a similar tale unfolded. Trump was welcomed by nearly 100,000 people and he was quick to impress them, talking about Bollywood, cricket players and influential saints. While Trump, his team and family had a great trip exploring the cultural diversity that India has to offer, he was also on another mission; to secure some key trade, defense and technology deals.

Major India-US Defense Deal

To begin with, let’s discuss the deals signed by both sides. Firstly, India and the U.S. have signed a defense deal which will see India purchasing attack helicopters and advanced military equipment worth almost $3 billion. Secondly, they’ve penned a deal with Exxon Mobil where India will get to import more Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the U.S. Next on the table are some MoUs on mental health and the safety of medical products. What remains missing from this trip was the notorious trade deal which both sides were looking to secure. That deal was unable to take shape as both sides failed to negotiate appropriate terms with Trump citing tariffs as a serious obstacle. Both leaders did admit that negotiations are ongoing and would soon bring about a new agreement meant to satisfy all. 5G technology was also another key point of Trump’s visit where he said India and the U.S. would work harder and effectively to make sure that the technology is “safe for everyone to use.”

Sore Point for Indians: Trump Praises Pakistan, Khan

One part of the trip which probably all Indians would rather soon forget is the fact that Trump praised India’s most hated neighbor Pakistan in good terms, saying during an address that he has good relations with Pakistani Premier Imran Khan. However, Trump was quick to mention that both sides will continue to counter “radical Islamic terrorism.” In my opinion, Trump’s visit could be beneficial for all countries in the region. Starting with Pakistan, Trump can act as a mediator where he will try to convince both sides to draw up a solution on the Kashmir issue and resolve tensions bilaterally rather than taking unilateral steps and threatening to attack every now and then.

A good relationship with India could also mean bad business with Russia and China. Considering the fact that India purchases the bulk of its military equipment from Russia and has now signed a $3B deal with the U.S., it can clearly be analyzed that the U.S. is trying to excel its influence on the country. A trade deal would’ve resolved India’s slowing economy and political clout but that would take time. China’s fight with the coronavirus has already put its factories and workings on high alert. The issues with Russia will also continue, considering the new defense deal. The fight to exert regional power has always been the United States’ number one objective and Trump has clearly played that card on his trip to India.

Trump’s India Visit Was an Impressive Success, With One Caveat

Trump’s visit to India can be classified as one where he achieved immense success in bonding with Indians and also those at home. Being mindful of the upcoming elections this was a “Trump card” that the U.S. President played in order to secure votes at home from Indian-Americans. However, I believe that President Trump should’ve taken a stronger stance on the Citizenship Amendment Act issue since it has become a ruling which is being criticized across the globe and has led to deadly violence in India that is currently ongoing. Furthermore, Trump’s influence is such that he has the power and capacity to exert his decisions in a manner which would help alleviate many ongoing problems across the world.

Warm hugs and sweet talk between Modi and Trump points to an excellent relationship, and that was witnessed during the time Trump spent in India. However, what the future might have in store for both sides will only be determined following U.S. elections this November. Both leaders have a strong vision for not only their countries but also for global progression in all areas. The visit will also remind India’s neighbors that it is currently in a very strong position – backed by Trump – and whatever New Delhi says will consequently have an even stronger footing in the international arena.