President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to India will be a “wonderful spectacle” and “extremely successful” due to many measures, leading US experts in South Asia have said.
According to a White House announcement early this week, Trump will visit Ahmedabad and New Delhi on February 24 and 25 with the First Lady. This would be the first bilateral visit of the President in the third decade of the 21st century and also the first after his acquittal by the Senate in the trial.
“I think the Trump visit will be a wonderful spectacle and will be extremely successful through many measures,” Ashley Tellis, who is Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told PTI. It is expected that Trump will receive a roaring welcome from lakhs people when he arrives in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is expected to give a historic speech to hundreds and thousands of people at the newly built Motera stadium, the largest cricket stadium in the world.
Tellis, one of the foremost experts in India, noted that he was not sure at this time whether the trade disputes between the two countries would be resolved.
Senior government officials are keeping a close eye on this issue, except for commenting in the recent past that the two countries are on the brink of a trade package or a mini-trade deal. “Although the Indian government (India) has claimed that both parties are close to a deal, I don’t think real progress has been made – certainly none that will satisfy USTR (US trade representatives). We may be able to make some progress in the area defense sales, but that is also uncertain, “Tellis said.
“Yet both countries have done well in the field of defense cooperation under the Trump government, which is more than can be said for many other American relationships with its allies. I expect this to deepen further in the coming years, “he said in response to a question. “Even if the visit only yields good optics, I will find it all the same if it reinforces Trump’s perception of India as a friend. Given his merciless personality and policy, that’s no small feat – and I think PM Modi understands that, “Tellis said.
Rick Rossow, president of Wadhwani in US India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, hoped that the two leaders could conclude an agreement to remove some of the recent trade irritants.
“My own opinion is that India continues to dig a deeper hole in causing trade tensions – particularly due to steep customs increases in the Union budget of 1 February. So a short-term deal can just be a delay in our trade struggle, “Rossow told PTI.
When he noted that Trump is the fourth consecutive president traveling to India, and the second consecutive president visiting India during his first tenure, Rossow felt that a visit to India is no longer an important event.
“India is a large and growing export market and an emerging security partner for the United States … especially important because we are considering options to further withdraw our armed forces in Afghanistan and look for a network of burden-sharing in areas where the emergence of China is occurring a threat. India will be important on both counts, “Rossow told PTI.
According to Anish Goel, Senior Fellow at New America and former senior White House official, Trump’s upcoming visit is consistent with long-standing policies in both countries to continue to strengthen and strengthen bilateral relations.
“The visit will be a political advantage for both the President (Trump) and the Prime Minister (Modi). India is one of the few countries where the president is quite popular. So he can expect a huge turnout for his rally in Ahmedabad. Likewise, the prime minister will certainly get a boost in supporting the president’s hosting, “Goel told PTI. Trump will at least offer Modi a welcome diversion from his recent domestic problems, he said. “It is an important and positive step to bring the two countries closer together. The timing is also important, since this is the first visit of an American president during a year in which he is re-elected. That self is a signal of the importance of this relationship for the United States, “he added.
“The results for the visit will certainly be focused on defense and trade. India has already announced USD 3.5 billion worth of new defense purchases during the visit. And everyone is hopeful that a deal will be announced that will normalize the trade relationship, “he said.
The trade agreement was expected in September last year when Modi visited New York and met Trump, but the differences could not be worked out in time.
The White House would not have agreed to this visit to India unless the trade agreement was really fully completed. Outside of trade and defense, the results to be delivered are likely to be modest, Goel said. “It is important that the President and the Prime Minister have an extensive bilateral meeting where all critical issues, including Pakistan, are discussed. The strategic partnership between India and the US depends on more than trade and defense sales, so it is imperative that they also address other strategic issues, “said Goel.