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Amid the Obama years the cooperation between the two countries gradually improved. As one of the key elements in this process, the USA qualified India as “its main defence partner” in 2016 and then it agreed on the selling of modern military technology. Undoubtedly, Modi’s active foreign policy also favoured the consolidation of the US relations. Indo-US relationship made great strides in 2017, with President Donald Trump keeping his electoral promise of being the "best friend of India" inside the White House. India was the only country for which the Trump administration came out with a 100-year plan; an honour not accorded to even America's top allies. Not only Trump administration rechristened the Asia Pacific region as Indo-Pacific, much to the anxiety of China, giving a greater role and space for New Delhi in the entire region, but also for the first time the United States stated in clear terms that India is a key player in Afghanistan. As Trump announced his South Asia Policy – giving India a key role in bringing peace in the war-torn nation – in August, for the first time a US president aligned himself with New Delhi's position that terrorism emanates from Pakistan. Top officials of the Trump administration assert that it would be a "big mistake" on the part of Pakistan if it did not take seriously the words of Trump.
President Trump recently released his first National Security Strategy, which described India as a "leading global power" and stressed on deepening US' strategic partnership with New Delhi and support its leadership role in maintaining security in the Indo-Pacific region. “United by our common interests and goals, our bilateral relationship in 2017 focused on what we can do together to promote peace and security throughout the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific; combat terrorist threats; strengthen our defence and security ties; increase free and reciprocal trade; and build out energy linkages,"Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asia Tom Vajda said. "Our economic relationship continues to grow, led by sales in US civil aviation, military equipment, and, for the first time, crude oil as we seek to expand and balance our our trade relationship," Vajda added. Our militaries once again showed their ability to operate together with the MALABAR naval exercise off the coast of Chennai, and our two armies came together in Washington State for the Yudh Abhyas exercise to hone their skills in counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations
It is also for the first time that the US has aligned itself with India's position on One Belt One Road of China. Before heading for India, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his India-policy speech sketched out the administration's policy on OBOR, on the lines of that of India and reiterated New Delhi's argument that there is need to come out with an alternative to Chinese model of predatory financing to countries which eats into their sovereignty. Not only this, led by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, the entire administration raised the sovereignty issue of China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which pases through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Modi's visit was quickly followed by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Tillerson travelling to India. "This relationship has not only weathered the storm of global uncertainty, it has proven to be a great stabiliser as well," said Verma, the first Indian-American envoy to India. Nisha Desai Biswal, Obama administration's point person for South and Central Asia, also had the same opinion.
The greatest victory for India was to gain the US’s support for the destruction of terrorism. Not only do the two countries aim to develop close cooperation in the fields of intelligence sharing, coordinate the counter-terrorism operations and map the financial background of terrorist troops but the USA also severely judged Pakistan for supporting terrorism. Before the meeting the US leadership qualified the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen Kashmiri militant group, Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Salahuddin, who enjoys Pakistan’s support, is considered one of the greatest enemies of India after threatening to turn Kashmir into a graveyard for the Indian military force. The Americans also accepted the joint action against organisations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. The joint declaration mentions Pakistan two times: first, when it states it cannot just watch by doing nothing how terrorist attacks are launched from its territory against another country, and second, when it says the Pakistani people committing explosions against Mumbai, Pathankot and other target points should be brought to trial. The USA seems to have stood on the side of India in its dispute against Pakistan. However, Washington cannot afford to deteriorate its relations with the Islamabad because of its own interests as it needs Pakistan to counterbalance China’s influence and enforce its Afghanistan and Iran Policy. Therefore, the practical realisation of the above mentioned seems to be at issue. When taking their position on terrorism, the politicians also touched upon Afghanistan. The parties mutually acknowledged the efficiency of each other’s Afghanistan policy and held out the prospect of joint action and the improvement of cooperation.
It is a positive point for India that it has managed to come to a common agreement with the USA in regional issues. Both parties have acknowledged that the connectivity of the region needs improvement; however, is should be implemented through transparent infrastructure investments, with responsible debt management and in accordance with the legal provisions. Undoubtedly, they refer to China’s New Silk Road Initiative, which India received with disapproval – partly owing to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor– and the USA managed with aloofness. The joint declaration also has references to China’s South China Sea Policy, although without specifying an actual location and only mentioning the maintenance of free navigation, overflight and trade. The parties also stood up for the settlement of territorial disputes and the observation of international law. India and the USA’s joint position against China’s growing regional influence is undoubtable, although there are still several open questions concerning its practical counterbalancing.
According to the US Government, India has the same rights as the US’s allies in the field of military acquisition, having been its “major defence partner” since 2016. India has a key stabilising role in South Asia; therefore, it is the US’s essential role to extend the strategic partnership. However, the Indian Government still does not intend to achieve an ally status; therefore, the relations are unlikely to improve in this direction. Nevertheless, the development of the defence relations between the two countries is proven by several actual agreements. According to the joint declaration, India purchases 22 Guardian type drones from the USA; however, under the Make in India Program the production of F16 fighters in India has also come up with the cooperation of Lockheed Martin and Tata. The parties also expressed their intention to strengthen safety at sea and announced the introduction of the white shipping information sharing system. Furthermore, the forthcoming Operation Malabar offers an opportunity for the consolidation of the naval cooperation. While India supported the US joining to the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) as an observer, in return Washington also stood up for the realisation of India’s stronger presence in the international organisations (e.g. permanent membership in the UN Security Council).
In order to decrease the trade deficit of the USA, both leaders- Modi and Trump approved the necessity of lifting the trade restrictions and took a stand on the reassessment of trade relations and the establishment of free and fair trade. As a response to Trump’s job creation endeavours, Modi highlighted that the Indian investments of 15 billion dollars have contributed to the creation of jobs in 35 states of the USA up to present. In the energy sector the American export is expected to rise since the USA primarily aims to support the Indian economic growth through the increased export of gas and renewable energy resources. The issue of global energy security and cybersecurity were salso taken into the consideration by the two countries. At present it has every chance of developing the economic relations of the two countries, which has been proven by the negotiations and the good personal relationship between the two leaders. Modi invited President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and the Cabinet Members of the United States to visit India, while an agreement was also concluded that Trump’s daughter Ivanka would also travel to India leading the delegation of US investors in the second half of 2017.
While the two countries take the same position in numerous political issues, in the meantime disputed issues have also arisen. India negatively received Trump’s announcement made on 1 June 2017 on the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and later Trump charged India of demanding several billion dollars by virtue of fulfilment of its obligations. The Indian general public also received Trump’s executive order in April incomprehensively, which gave effect to fundamental changes – severe restrictions for India – with respect to the H1-B visa, i.e. the entry authorisation of highly-qualified foreign labour force recruited by the US. Furthermore, the US trade deficit of 24.4 billion dollars with India has also become the target point of Trump’s internal promises, which might be pregnant with negative consequences for India in the future, too.
Considering the uncertainties of the US-India relations in the first half of 2017, the Modi-Trump meeting can obviously be deemed as successful. The USA-India partnership obtained confirmation, and a harmonic and promising relationship was established between the two politicians. In a certain aspect both parties can be satisfied with the results, although the victory of the Indian diplomacy is more spectacular (Pakistan, terrorism, China). Besides the foreign political interests of the country, Modi herewith adjusted the perspectives of economic development with the US’s expectations, assuming a considerable internal risk as the open commitment towards the United States could hardly be fully successful in India. A big question is, however, how the statements laid down in the joint declaration can be put into practice. Aside from the economic agreements that imply the greatest opportunity for the improvement of the partnership between the two countries, we can expect no considerable progress in plenty of issues, although consent is perfect at the rhetoric level (e.g. the isolation of Pakistan). We should not forget either that the US-India relations still have the neuralgic points about which the parties have not even discussed during their meetings in Washington. Neither party intended to raise the struggle against the climate change or the issue of H1-B visa, so the findings of the meeting should be handled with careful consideration.
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