breaking ice

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Jun 2017 12:07:26

THE most critical achievement of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s first visit to United States President Mr. Donald Trump was that the Indian leader was able to tear off reticence of the American leader and establish with him a fairly personal communication that led to a smiling Mr. Trump assuring once again that India has a ‘true friend’ in White House. And in return, Mr. Modi assured that he would be a “driven, determined, and decisive” partner to serve a common global vision of a terror-free, harmonious world. The affability in the meeting of the two leaders and later at the delegation-level discussions where the joint communique` was finalised was more than apparent. Besides the details of various agreements reached, this affability between Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump is of a greater importance. In sum and substance, it means that the two leaders were able to break the ice. 

Of course, international politics weighed heavy in consideration of the meeting. In his part of the joint statement, Mr. Donald Trump talked of the American concern about growing intemperance of North Korea and the need to rein it in on an urgent basis. Another issue of regional criticality was touched upon by Mr. Narendra Modi when he stressed the Indian concern about Afghanistan and its reconstruction and peace and stability in the region. It was only natural that the two leaders would share their geopolitical concerns and try to evolve a common thinking. The very first meeting between the two, held against the background of various anxieties that had come to indicate possible strains in bilateral relations, would try to address certain nuances in international realpolitik. Obviously, they were able to do a fairly good job on that front.

Challenges of technology altering economic considerations also were on the minds of both the leaders. Upon his accession to presidency, Mr. Donald Trump had talked of his concern to secure American jobs against the aggressive Indian inroads into the critical zone. When Mr. Trump moved into the White House, one of his first announcements sent disconcerting signals to India. Later on, some deft moves by India and Indian corporates did block some possible damage all right, but the concern has to be addressed wholesomely. At least a good beginning seems to have been made in this regard during the meeting of the two leaders representing two great democracies.

Of course, terrorism, extremism and radicalism, as verablised by both the leaders, were prime concerns and the two agreed to work out a common response to the challenge. Historically, the United States and India held apparently similar-sounding views on these issues, yet no one missed differences of subtle nuances in their approaches. It appeared at the end of the meeting in Washington that the two leaders were able to open a healthier conversation on those fine and subtle nuances. During the Obama presidency, the process of addressing those nuances had begun, but may now get a more final shape since Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi are rather ‘hard-liners’ as regards terrorism, extremism, and radicalism.

No matter the differences in styles of the two leaders, they will have to work their way around some roadblocks created by the famous American ‘self-interest’, a term the US has often used to describe or defend some of its diplomatic actions. The Monday encounter at the White House showed awareness of those subtleties and also of the need to sort those out. The manner in which Mr. Trump appreciated Mr. Modi’s efforts in various areas demonstrated to the world that the Indian Prime Minister is being recognised as a true international statesman, something that should make Indians proud.

Every word Mr. Modi uttered, every gesture of his, every hinted intention by him demonstrated an openness that seemed to have a disarming effect on the American President. For, the initial reticence writ large on Mr. Trump’s face seems to have vanished when the two leaders came out to make the joint statement. Of course, upon his arrival, Mr. Modi’s openness seems to have cracked the outward defence Mr. Trump and First Lady Mrs. Melania maintained on their faces. For, in just a few minutes, Mr. Modi could be seen suggesting something that evoked a healthy laughter out of all the three. In high-level diplomacy, such a bonhomie is welcome condition to breaking the ice. Mr. Modi was able to achieve that quite early upon his arrival at the White House.

At the time of Mr. Trump’s accession as President, there were certain reservations in India about some of his stances. As time wore out, some of those reservations seems to have found understandable answers, thanks to the subsequent evolution and explanatory refinement in Mr. Trump’s narrative. This aspect was lurking from behind the observations and remarks made by Mr. Trump in his part of the joint statement.

Mr. Trump paid tributes to Mr. Modi’s leadership as well as the Indian concern by actually declaring Hizbul leader Salauddin as a global terrorist. It was obvious that the US did that to suit the need of the moment of Mr. Modi’s visit to the Trumps. That was a fine gesture of an unparalleled importance.

There is every reason top believe that from this point on, the India-US relations would assume yet another mature dimension that would help the two countries navigate whatever differences more capably, more in larger common interests.