WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are pledging to work together to boost security and trade ties.
The two countries “look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States,” according to a White House statement issued Monday evening.
Declaring his talks with the president “very successful and very fruitful,” the visiting Indian prime minister gave his host a trademark bear hug in the White House Rose Garden when the two finished reading their respective statement. They did not take questions from the dozens of White House correspondents and the visiting Indian reporters.
Modi also announced increased cooperation on fighting terrorism, including enhanced sharing of intelligence.
“The top priority for both President Trump and I is to protect our societies from global challenges like terrorism, and our aim is to strengthen India and the United States, the two great democracies of the world,” Modi said alongside Trump.
The U.S. president said New Delhi and Washington can set an example for many other nations and make great strides in defeating common threats.
“We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” said the president.
Indian officials expressed appreciation for the U.S. designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
Trump and Modi, according to the White House statement, called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries and requested Islamabad “expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”
Combining both the security and economic relationship, an expected multi-billion-dollar deal for American surveillance drones for the Indian Navy will make a dent in the $24 billion trade imbalance in India’s favor.
The manufacturer of the drones, General Atomics, said it received clearance to sell the unmanned aerial vehicles to the Indian military – a deal estimated to be worth between $2 billion and $3 billion.
The White House Monday evening said the drones had been offered for consideration of sale to enhance “India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests.”
Meanwhile, the State Department has approved a possible sale of C-17 transport aircraft to India’s government. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency says it delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible $366 million sale on Monday.
The president on Monday did not specifically mention the drones or the cargo planes, but in a delegation meeting in the White House Cabinet Room Trump, flanked by his vice president and secretary of state, expressed appreciation for India ordering American defense equipment.
“There’s nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment. Nobody even close. So, we want to thank you very much,” Trump said sitting across a conference table from Modi.
“What's clear from this visit and the joint statement is that there is a fair amount of policy continuity in U.S.-India relations since the leadership transition in Washington,” the Wilson Center’s South Asia deputy director Michael Kugelman told VOA.
While Modi is touting a “Make in India” campaign, Trump is all about “America First.”
Analysts, such as Kugelman, say it is notable that the two leaders directly referenced such potential tension points.
“Clearly Modi and Trump believe that economic and trade cooperation need not be as tricky as some may assume,” said Kugelman.
Although this was not billed as a state visit, U.S. officials emphasized they rolled out the red carpet for the Indian prime minister. And Modi was the first foreign leader for whom Trump hosted a dinner at the White House.