Last October, in the middle of the incendiary campaign that led to his election as US president, Donald Trump made a promise.
“If I am elected president,” Trump told a crowd of thousands at the Republican Hindu Coalition fundraiser, “the Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House, that I can guarantee you.”
Now firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, India’s most powerful friend is getting down to business. On Jan. 24, Trump got on a call with Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, only the fifth world leader the US president has phoned since his inauguration. Trump had spoken to the leaders of Canada, Israel, Mexico, and Egypt before that.
Modi, too, had been quick off the line, telephoning the Republican shortly after his unexpected election victory last November.
By all available accounts, the latest chat went off rather well. Here’s what the White House put out after the call:
During a call with prime minister Narendra Modi of India, president Trump emphasised that the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world. The two discussed opportunities to strengthen the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defense. They also discussed security in the region of south and central Asia. President Trump and prime minister Modi resolved that the United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism. President Trump looked forward to hosting prime minister Modi in the United States later this year.
On Twitter, India’s prime minister also acknowledged his conversation with Trump.
Amid confusion over Trump’s foreign policy, his decision to call Modi before reaching out to the heads of any major European or Asian nations will perhaps help reassure New Delhi. There has been some concern over Trump’s aggressive stance with China, which could potentially destabilise the strategic and economic balance in Asia. Alongside, the Indian industry, especially its IT sector, is also worried about the prospect of Trump tightening immigration rules and choking the H-1B visa programme.
While a good personal equation between Trump and Modi by itself won’t determine long-term ties, it’ll surely help strengthen US-India relations.
A backslapping bromance, like the one between former president Barack Obama and Modi, will also make for great TV!