Washington: US President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi last evening. The two leaders discussed the security situation in South and Central Asia, in their first discussion since Mr Trump was sworn-in as US President. India and the United States will "stand shoulder to shoulder" to fight global terrorism, the White House said later.
- US President Donald Trump Calls PM Modi, discusses road ahead
- Defence and economic ties, security situation in Asia discussed
- President Trump calls India 'true friend'; both leaders invite each other
Addressing the media after the two leaders spoke, the White House said, strengthening the defence partnership between the US and India was among the various topics that came up during their talks. Extending cooperation in various sectors, especially the military was discussed. "President Trump emphasised that the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world," the White House said.
The significance of US' partnership with India was reflected in the fact that President Trump called Prime Minister Modi before he spoke with important allies like Britain, Germany and Japan or major powers like China and Russia since formally taking office last Friday.
During his election campaign, India is among the few countries in addition to Israel with whom Mr Trump had spoken of strengthening ties if elected to power. At a charity event organised by a group calling itself the Hindu Republican Coalition, Donald Trump had praised Prime Minister Modi as a "great leader" and sought a kinship of ideas with him as a "pro-growth leader". He had gone on to say, "Under a Trump Administration, we are going to become even better friends, in fact I would take the term better out and we would be best friends."
After yesterday's phone call, the White House said that President Trump invited PM Modi to visit him later this year. In tweets this morning, Prime Minister Modi said he too has invited the US President to India. President Pranab Mukherjee had also invited Donald Trump to visit India when he congratulated him on assuming the presidency. The real estate investor-turned-politician has visited India several times for business.
The two leaders also discussed ways in which the economic cooperation and trade could be strengthened, however, the statement did not give details of what they might have discussed in this regard. Based on his campaigns and speeches, President Trump and PM Modi appear to have parallel priorities of job creation, especially through manufacturing, and increasing investments which seem to be headed for a collision.
Before his phone call to PM Modi, Donald Trump met with auto industry leaders to promote his programme of "Make in America". On Monday, he had met union and industry leaders and emphasised his campaign slogan of "Buy American, Hire American".
Shalabh Kumar, the founder and head of a group calling itself the Republican Hindu Coalition, who is close to both leaders, told news agency IANS that trade need not be a zero sum game and both nations can mutually benefit from their respective "Make in India" and "Make in America" domestic manufacturing programmes.
As an example, he said that while the US increases manufactured exports to India in defence, technology and energy sectors, India will have an opportunity to take advantage of Donald Trump's move away from China and increase its own manufactured exports in a balanced manner. This would help create jobs in both countries and enable both leaders to achieve their priorities, he added.
President Trump has also spoken about limiting the use of temporary professional visas known as the H1-B visa, which he has repeatedly said is abused and is used to throw Americans out of jobs. This is a matter of great concern for India as these visas are essential for India's technology sector exports to the US.
Tuesday was also significant for India-US relations as Nikki Haley became the first Indian-American to get a cabinet-level appointment when the Senate approved Donald Trump's nomination for her to be the US ambassador to the United Nations. President Trump also appointed Ajit Pai to be the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the powerful agency that regulates mobile phones and the spectrum, telephones, radio, television and cable. A third senior administration appointee was Seema Verma, who will be in charge of the government healthcare programmes.
Before his conversation with PM Modi, Donald Trump had spoken only with the neighbours, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Pena Nieto, with premier ally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who will have a major role in helping Trump deal with the Middle East and with terrorism.
(With inputs from IANS)