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Past Event

When Narendra Meets Donald: Taking Stock of Modi’s U.S. Visit

Past Event

Full event discussion and Q&A

On June 28, Brookings India, in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), hosted a panel discussion to assess the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. on June 26th and the future of India-U.S. relations. The discussion featured Indrani Bagchi, diplomatic editor of The Times of India, Constantino Xavier, Fellow at Carnegie India, Dr. A Didar Singh, Secretary General of FICCI, and was moderated by Dhruva Jaishankar, Foreign Policy Fellow at Brookings India.

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Participants interact with each other before the event

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Attendees discuss issues before the event

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Dhruva Jaishankar speaks to Indrani Bagchi prior to the event

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Dhruva Jaishankar introduces the panel for the event

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An audience member listens closely to the panelists

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Constantino Xavier speaks to the audience

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An audience member listens to the speakers

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Dr. A Didar Singh speaks to the audience

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Constantino Xavier speaks to the other panelists

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Indrani Bagchi speaks to the audience

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Indrani Bagchi contributes to the discussion

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Indrani Bagchi and Dhruva Jaishankar listen to an audience member

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The following summary highlights some key ideas from the discussion:

  • From a stock view of India-U.S. ties, three levels of factors that determine the strength of bilateral relations are: long-range factors, such as the rise of China and the shared democratic nature and liberal values of India and the U.S.; mid-range factors, such as established outreach by the two governments culminating in over 50 bilateral dialogues; and short-range factors, such as counterterrorism.
  • In the India-U.S. joint statement released on June 27, 2016, the sharpest language was reserved for Pakistan and was much stronger this year than in previous joint statements. The use of the phrase ‘safe haven’ was new and signaled a possible hardening of the United States’ stance towards Pakistan. This could lead to heightened cooperation between the U.S. and India on counterterrorism measures.
  • The joint statement also possibly reflected a toughening of the position of the United States towards China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. The language of the joint statement was nearly identical to India’s statement on OBOR on May 14, perhaps signaling a diplomatic victory for India.
  • Issues such as health, education, science, climate change and the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) were not included in the joint statement, a departure from joint statements from the Obama era. This could signal a shift in the worldview of the United States.
  • Although the Joint Strategic Vision was not mentioned, its essence is visible in the joint statement. Cooperation on maritime initiatives has been retained as a critical feature of India-U.S. ties.
  • Jobs continue to be a critical component of bilateral relations. The issue of jobs must be looked at from the “dual angle” of trade and investment. Indian companies and Indian exports to the U.S. are critical drivers of job creation for Americans. Moreover, while trade deficit is a sensitive issue for India-U.S. ties, the relationship between the two countries has been solidified by the large volume of bilateral dialogues, Indian diaspora in America, a large population of Indian students studying in America and sister relationships between American and Indian cities.
  • It was also noted that Vice President Mike Pence’s statement at the meeting of the U.S.-India Business Council on June 27 identified three key areas of cooperation: civil aviation, defense and energy. This gives us insight into the priority areas for the Trump administration.
  • Some challenges to the future prosperity of India-US relations were also identified. India-U.S. relations could possibly plateau in the next few years and fall into an established pattern; the Indian government and private sector will have to take the initiative to enhance ties with the U.S.  because of the possibility of a less open and dynamic U.S. under President Trump.
  • Consequently, India will have to look at alternate state groupings through bilateral and trilateral initiatives in order to balance its position externally; India will also have to concentrate on domestic economic growth in order to offset the undesirable consequences of a less open United States.

Event report by Shruti Godbole, Programme Associate, Brookings India.
Tushita Saraf, a Foreign Policy Research Intern, contributed to the writing of this report.
The views are of the author(s), discussant(s), panellist(s).

Event Announcement

On 26th June 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump met for the first time during Modi’s two-day visit to the United States. On 28th June 2017, Brookings India, in partnership with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), will host a panel discussion that assesses the meeting and the future of India-U.S. relations. The discussion will feature Dr. A Didar Singh, Secretary General of FICCI, Constantino Xavier, Fellow at Carnegie India, and Indrani Bagchi of The Times of India.

The discussion will be on-the-record and open to the media. All participants are requested to register their attendance with Shruti Godbole at sgodbole@brookingsindia.org.

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